Friday, December 31, 2010

Pasta with butternut squash and lamb: a recipe

Mark Bittman's butternut squash and lamb pasta ... sort of
In looking over my blogs posts from the past few months as well as my menu plan for the week, I think I'm a wee bit obsessed with butternut squash.

But it's not entirely my fault. Being a current seasonal vegetable, it just keeps showing up in all the recipes I've come across lately.

Today's comes from Mark Bittman, although I must admit that, since I had to modify it to accommodate the only ground lamb I could find this week, I will need to try it again, using Bittman's suggested ingredients, to see which version I like better.

Because Bittman's recipe calls for unseasoned ground lamb, cumin and cinnamon, I'm certain it would have a nice Moroccan flavor. Unfortunately, all I could get my hands on was lamb merguez sausage, which our friends at wikipedia informed me is full of peppery spices. I didn't think that would go very well with cinammon, so I omitted it and cut way back on the cumin, too.

I also used Kefalotiri cheese rather than Kasseri because my local market was sold out of Kasseri. The cheese dude told me it would be "close enough" -- meaning, I think, "It's the only other Greek cheese we have and you don't really have a choice, lady."

The result was very flavorful -- the extra spiciness of the lamb was balanced by the sweetness of the roasted squash, without being too sweet.

So, according to recipe authorship etiquette, because I changed at least 3 ingredients, this recipe is officially "inspired by" Mark Bittman, not "adapted from" Mark Bittman.

Viva la squash! And get ready for Detox January...

Pasta with butternut squash and lamb (inspired by Mark Bittman for Bon Appetit)

2-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1/2-inch dice (approx. 6 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 ounces ground lamb merguez sausage
2 cups chopped onions
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes with added puree
2 cups chicken stock
8 ounces multi-grain penne pasta
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
1/2 cup grated kasseri or kefalotiri cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss squash with 1 tablespoons oil in large bowl. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roast until tender, turning occasionally, about 35 minutes. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add lamb and onions and cook until lamb browns and onions soften, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cumin, cook about 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, then add broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Stir in squash and season with salt and pepper.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and return pasta to pot. Add lamb mixture, cilantro and cheese. Season again with salt and pepper.

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