Tuesday

Pasta with Oven Roasted Butternut Squash and Brown Butter-Walnut Sauce

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The essence of Autumn on the dinner plate.

While growing up my aunt and uncle had a huge ranch and commercial orchards in what was known as the Valley of the Heart's Delight in Santa Clara County, California. Located just south of San Jose they grew Apricots, Walnuts, and Italian Plums in the rich valley soil and hot sunshine.

Valley of the Heart's Delight kind of has a nicer "ring" to it than Silicon Valley, don't you think so?

How we kids loved going to the country to visit our aunt and uncle, to explore and get lost in imaginative adventure.

Each season brought it's own special fun. Spring, when the hundreds of acres of fruit trees were in fragrant bloom, what an undescribable treat for the senses! Hot summer days meant adventures in the creek, rafting, swimming, and learning to skip stones on the water.

Summer also brought harvest time for the Apricots and Plums, and the big noisy, scary wooden dehydrator barns down the dusty drive toward the foothills on the way to the creek. With sweaty palms I would run past them as quickly as I could; they were enormous and dark inside; the huge, grumbling fans were terribly frightening to a little girl.

Of course we could have all of the fruit and nuts we wanted, eating it freshly picked from the tree, still warm from the sun, and so juicy.

Autumn was walnut season. Whenever I see walnuts I can't help but think of the time we kids spent cracking and shelling the mountains of nuts my aunt and uncle sent home with us in large brown paper bags each year. And I remember sore hands!

How I appreciate store bought, shelled walnuts today. :)

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Mom would use them in her baking, and my Dad would bake them into his Christmas specialty; Prune Cake made with the dried Italian Plums (prunes), also from the orchards.

Time marches on; the orchards and ranch were sold to a large winery many years ago. I went back to see it a couple of times, but the visits were painful. My aunt's ranch house seemed so much smaller than I remembered.

Though the orchards still extended as far as the eye could see, many of the trees were diseased or dying of old age and no longer producing like they once did. Grapevines had replaced hundreds of acres of the trees. The distant dry foothills stood out bare at the edge of the property, the view no longer shielded by the trees we used to climb and hide in, and whose fruit we would eat.

Eventually with the passage of more time, the land became too valuable to use for grape growing. It was sold. It is now a large housing subdivision.

We can't slow time down but...

This dish takes me back to autumn in those simpler times.

Tender oven roasted orange squash, crunchy toasted walnuts, and brown butter sauce ~ it doesn't get much better than this for comforting fall dish. It's a delicious vegetarian dish, and also makes a good side dish.

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Pasta with Oven Roasted Butternut Squash and Brown Butter-Walnut Sauce

Make as little or as much as you'd like, just adjust the amount of ingredients.

Any bite-size Pasta you like (Farfalle, Penne, Ziti, etc.)

Butternut squash, cut into pieces, place in a shallow rimmed baking pan, rub and drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast in a hot oven until tender.

While the pasta is cooking melt a generous amount of butter in a large skillet over medium low heat; add walnuts. Stir gently so walnuts toast evenly while the butter becomes a rich medium brown color, remove from heat when desired color is achieved.

When pasta is al dente, remove it from the cooking water (retaining a little of the cooking water). Return the skillet over medium heat, add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss gently to coat thoroughly. If the coating seems too "tight" add a few spoonfuls of hot pasta cooking water if necessary to loosen, and mix again. Gently add the roasted squash, and toss to coat and warm thoroughly.

Serve in warm bowls, or on warmed plates; pass grated Parmesano Reggiano at the table, and offer additional freshly ground black pepper.

Sometimes I add fresh whole sage leaves to the butter as I am browning it and toasting the walnuts.


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8 comments:

  1. Mari, this was a wonderful story of your childhood and A & U's property. I could almost see the changes happen through your words.

    I would love this dish and look forward to trying it soon.

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  2. I loved reading a bit about your childhood, Mary. Thanks for sharing your memories with us. :)

    As always, your photos and recipes look and sound wonderful!

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  3. i hate progress... i can share in your own memories just from where i live now. i yearn for miles of fruit trees, it breaks my heart to see so much change... good thing food can mask the pain!

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  4. Thanks for sharing your precious memories, Mari. I grew up on a farm that is now condos as far as the eye can see. Progress I guess. Browned butter, walnuts and butternut squash are heaven on a plate. Happy turkey day.

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  5. I relaly enjoyed reading about your memories as well. Your pasta looks and sounds delicious, this is one I will have to try. but I can not tell you how excited I am about your posts for Thanksgiving! What are your plans? Who will be over, what are you amking?? P.s., I totally dig your music selections, I'm on amazon everyday witha new cd from your website to check out! happy Thanksgiving!

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  6. Enjoying reading about your memories! Sad it became a subdivision. I'm with Jain, progress :(

    Your pasta dish looks awesome!

    Happy Thanksgiving! Looking forward to seeing your table!

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  7. Happy Thanksgiving, Mari! I have a similar pasta recipe that I love to make every fall but now I want to add nuts to mine - lovely!

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  8. How funny we had pasta with roasted squash last night. I could eat it everyday. Clarice

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Thank you for your comments, friends ~ they make my day!

A Sampling of my food . . .

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