Butternut Squash Pasta + Kale

Its been years since I have cooked a packaged pasta. Buitoni, the longstanding brand of pasta sauces, filled pastas, and noodles, recently announced two new pasta flavors. The nice folks (thanks Sarah!) at Buitoni's agency, Night Agency in NYC, contacted me about tasting these pastas and creating a new recipe or two.  Armed with coupons to try them out, I brought home packages of the Butternut Squash Agnolotti (half moon shapes filled with butternut squash puree, ricotta cheese, and amoretti cookie crumbs) and the Chicken Marsala Ravioli (chicken, roasted mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, and Marsala wine). Both of these pastas are part of Buitoni's all natural reserve product line.  

Preferring the Butternut Squash, I made a list of ingredients that plays well with the agnolotti filling. Nutmeg immediately jumped to the top of the page. Shallots and garlic are always reliable aromatics. Finally, kale emerged as the other star of the show. The green leafy vegetable often shows up butternut squash side dishes or savory pies. Plus, it seems to be everywhere this time of year and for a bargain.

What I didn't want to create was another sauce, especially one chock full of butter or cream. Not that those sauces don't taste good - they just didn't seem to fit with this pasta.    What I like about this recipe is the use of a delicious filled pasta (the filling really tastes like butternut squash) along with seasonal ingredients, not to mention local.  This means cutting out some kitchen time (rolling and stuffing pasta) yet still chopping, stirring, and toasting raw ingredients. Water boils while the kale wilts in the saute pan. Active cooking time means dinner gets eaten sooner. 

Kale is one of those superfoods that gets lots of name dropping for health benefits and nutritional impact. It is a frequent guest on farmers market tables in the summer as well as the winter. In other words, this pasta recipe fits the summer and the January dinner menus. There are many varieties of kale - use whatever you find at the market. Since they all look like mini shrubs, rip off the stems and tear the leaves. No need to bring out the knife this time.  Unlike the other green leafy vegetable, spinach, it won't disappear quite as quickly in the pan.  Another +1 for this recipe: it only took 30 minutes, from start to finish.    

*I was not compensated for these products or recipes - the Night Agency provided me with coupons to purchase the pastas free of charge*

Butternut Squash Pasta + Kale + Toasted Sunflower Seeds

yield: 3-4 servings

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups kale (any variety), stems removed and leaves torn into pieces
1 small shallot, thinly sliced, about 1 tablespoon
1 garlic clove, chopped, about 1 teaspoon
1/2 cup (4 ounces) chicken or vegetable stock
Fresh nutmeg
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon toasted sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon grated Pecorino cheese
1 package Buitoni Butternut Squash Agnolotti


Cook the Buitoni pasta according to the instructions on the package.

Heat the olive oil in a medium size skillet on medium high heat.  Add the kale and toss the leaves in the olive oil to coat.  Watch how the color changes to bright green.  When the kale starts to wilt a little, add the shallot and garlic. Turn the heat down a bit to avoid burning the shallot and garlic.

After about five minutes of cooking, add the chicken or vegetable stock. The stock will sizzle and start to form a sauce, of sorts. The kale will get more tender. 

Grate the nutmeg over the kale - 20 gratings should do the trick.  Use more or less depending on taste. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper.

When the pasta is ready, spoon the agnolotti into a bowl or plate. Add several spoonfuls of the kale on top of the pasta. Sprinkle with toasted sunflower seeds and cheese.

Gnocchi

I don't have an Italian grandmother, a nonna if you will, which probably explains why I never learned how to make gnocchi.  Actually, it has intimidated me for quite a while.  Eyeing (or eye-ing) this recipe and it's short list of ingredients gave me the determination to try it.  Knowing I could freeze the batch provided an extra dose of "make this now for another day when you don't have ricotta".  This makes enough pasta for 2-3 meals especially if the gnocchi are frozen. 

Gnocchi
adapted from Food52
yield: 2

1/2 pound (8 ounces) fresh whole milk ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/8 cup (2 ounces) finely grated Parmesan cheese
freshly grated nutmeg to taste
1 cup AP flour, sifted, plus extra for rolling dough
1-2 tablespoons butter
Lemon, for sauce

Mix ricotta cheese, egg, and olive oil.  Add grated Parmesan cheese to mixture and add with nutmeg to taste.

Add sifted flour a little at a time and continue to mix thoroughly until dough comes together.

Dump onto generously floured surface and work with hands to bring together into a smooth ball. Add more flour as necessary until dough is smooth and no longer sticks to your hands.

Cut off slices of dough and roll into ropes 1-1 1/2" inches thick by spreading hands and fingers and rolling from center out to each edge of the rope.

Line one rope parallel to another and cut 2 at a time into 1-inch pieces. Roll each piece off the back of a fork to make imprints that will help hold the sauce.

Transfer gnocchi pieces to a lightly floured or non-stick baking sheet so they don’t stick together and put in the freezer while making the rest of batch. If you plan to save any gnocchi for future use, allow them to freeze entirely on the baking sheet before storing in a plastic bag to prevent sticking.

When ready to eat, bring a large stockpot of generously salted water to a boil.

Add gnocchi to boiling water and gently stir once with a wooden spoon to create movement and prevent gnocchi from sticking. As gnocchi rise to the top {a sign they are done cooking} scoop them out with a mesh strainer and immediately place in serving bowl shaking off excess water.

Heat a small saute pan and add a tablespoon or two of butter.  Let the butter brown and then add the gnocchi.  Let the pasta cook in the butter to develop golden edges; this should take a few minutes.  When all the pasta is lightly browned, turn off the heat and squeeze lemon juice over the pasta and butter.

Plate the gnocchi, grate Parmesan cheese over the top, and serve.