January 13, 2011

Pasta with Apples, Walnuts, Brandied Raisins and Butternut Squash

Recently I tossed together a quick pasta dish completely from scratch... no recipe other than what I jotted down along the way, no reference to some other dish or recipe, etc.  I just selected a variety of ingredients I thought would go well together, tried to proportion them appropriately and tossed them together. 

I knew I wanted to saute some ingredients, then toss them with pasta to make a meal.  I also had an initial idea of some ingredients I wanted to use:  raisins, walnuts and squash. 

Raisins can end up mostly just tough and chewy, so I decided I'd soak the raisins in something flavorful.  Considering my options and what flavors might go well together, I decided to go with apple brandy, since I was already using sweet and fruit flavors.

I also knew squash can take awhile to saute, so tossing the cut-up squash in the microwave for a couple minutes would be a time-saving technique.

Giving thought to the walnuts, I decided I wanted them to serve as more than a bit of crunch, so I fried them in the oil before adding other ingredients, which I knew would permeate the oil in a nutty flavor and transfer a bit of that to the rest of the dish.

With those decisions made, the rest came to me pretty quickly.   I wanted a subtle and sweet undertone, nothing strong, so I went with one shallot instead of using an onion.  Garlic is pretty much a given.  I decided to toss in a chopped Granny Smith apple to add some tartness to provide a balance to the sweetness while sticking with the fruity flavor, and a bit of Parmesan to add a bit more of a nutty accent.   For pasta, I chose campanelle, knowing the bell-shaped pasta would be good for holding on to the small bits of other ingredients. 

Juli didn't like this one at all.  She didn't feel the different tastes blended well.  She also strongly disliked the flavor of the squash in this recipe, but I think that might reflect the squash more than the recipe, as I used chopped squash that had been frozen after being left over from making another recipe.  I thought the flavor was okay, if a bit subdued, but the texture of the squash did suffer a bit.

Pasta with Apples, Walnuts, Brandied Raisins and Butternut Squash

yield = 4 main-dish servings

3/4          cup golden raisins
1/2          cup apple brandy
12           ounces campanelle pasta
1             pound peeled and seeded butternut squash,
               chopped in 1/2 inch pieces
2             tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2          cup chopped walnuts
1             medium shallot, peeled and sliced thin
5             cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2          teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/2          teaspoon kosher or coarse salt
1             Granny Smith apple, cored and chopped
1/4          cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Combine raisins and brandy in a small saucepan over low heat.  Slowly simmer until all the liquid is absorbed or cooked off.   Remove from heat and set aside. Start water boiling to prepare pasta according to package directions.

Place the chopped squash in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Microwave 3 minutes.  Remove from the microwave and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat two tablespoons oil over medium heat.  When the oil is shimmering, add the walnuts and cook, stirring frequently, until they have started to brown.  Add the squash and shallot and cook, continuing to stir frequently, until the squash has started to brown. Add the garlic and cook one minute, then stir in the raisins and cook until heated through.   Remove from the heat and stir in black pepper and kosher salt.

Drain pasta.   Add the pasta, skillet contents and chopped apple to a serving bowl and toss to combine.  Top with Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve.

1 comment:

  1. Juli here. This recipe is the first one I had to give zero stars to. Jeffrey rated it as about a 3, but I couldn't eat it at all.