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.

Rhubarb Strawberry Cobbler + Cornmeal Biscuits

This is part 2 of the "what to do with 2 gallons of strawberries" series.  In part 1, I made jam with chiles and black peppercorns.  I had this recipe filed away for about two years and finally finally! decided to make it with some slight changes: swap the raspberries for strawberries and use two types of sugar.  The dessert is delicious hot from the oven or straight-from-the-refrigerator cold. 

Rhubarb Strawberry Cobbler + Cornmeal Biscuits

adapted from the New York Times
yield: 8 servings

filling:
2 cups rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 5-6 stalks)
2 pounds fresh strawberries, washing, hulled, and cut in half
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon raw sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

biscuits:
1 cup all-purpose flour, more as necessary
2/3 cup fine cornmeal
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2/3 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the filling, toss together rhubarb, strawberries, sugars and cornstarch in a large bowl. Allow mixture to stand while preparing biscuit dough.

To prepare biscuits, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  Add butter and use two knives to cut butter into flour mixture. Pour in cream and continue stirring until dough starts to come together, scraping down sides of bowl if necessary.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently pat it together. Divide it equally into 8 balls, then flatten them slightly into thick rounds.

Pour filling and accumulated juices into a 2 1/2-quart gratin or a 9 by 12 inche baking dish. Arrange biscuits on top of filling and brush with cream. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until filling is bubbling and biscuits are golden.

Three Onion Chowder

This chowder involves quite a bit of chopping: onions, leeks, garlic, shallot, celery, chives, and potatoes.  To save myself some time, I bought celery from the Whole Foods salad bar; when a recipe calls for so little, I never seem to find a solution to use up the left-over celery.  Another time saver is the Trader Joe's four ounce packages of cubed pancetta - I keep it in the freezer and throw the cubes into the pan without thawing.  Once all ingredients were chopped and ready to go into the pot, time flew by -- including the 30 minute waiting time with the heat turned off, the chowder took under an hour to make.  

Three Onion Chowder
serves 4-6 people adapted from Food52 

1 tablespoon butter
3 ounces pancetta, 1/4 inch dice
2 cups yellow onion, peeled and julienned
1 large leek, rinsed, white parts only, sliced into half moons
1 large shallot, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup celery, 1/4 inch dice
1 1/2 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, minced
1 bay leaf
1 cup chicken stock + 1 cup water
2 cups half and half
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 dice
1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

In a three quart Dutch oven, add the butter and pancetta and place it over medium heat to render the pancetta. Once some of the fat has been released add the onions, shallot and celery. Saute until almost golden. Add the leeks, garlic and thyme. Cook until the leeks are just becoming soft. Add the bay leaf, chicken stock, and water. Bring it to a boil and add the half and half and the potatoes. Bring the soup back to a boil and then immediately turn off the heat and cover the pot. Allow it to rest for at least thirty minutes.

To finish the soup reheat it but don't let it boil. Taste a potato to check and see if it is done and adjust the seasoning if necessary. If the potatoes are not done then cook over low heat for 15 minutes. Stir in the chives and then ladle into cups or bowls.