Recipe: Chef Michael Hunter’s Acorn Squash and Sage Pasta

By Shelley Boettcher

October is National Pasta Month, and we’re celebrating at our house, thanks to Barilla and Toronto chef Michael Hunter of Antler Kitchen & Bar.

Hunter recently released a new cookbook, The Hunter, which features more than 100 recipes and includes several pasta dishes that focus on seasonal, fresh, Canadian ingredients.

As part of his book launch, chef Hunter collaborated with Barilla to celebrate National Pasta Month. This vegetarian friendly recipe features acorn squash and fresh sage, both abundant in Canada this time of year. Bonus: It uses up leftover wine. (Surely, occasionally, you have leftover wine?)

When we made this recipe, we crisped up our sage leaves in a bit of olive oil before adding them to the dish. Whether you choose to fry them or leave them fresh, don’t omit them. They give the dish a wonderful flavour and aroma.

1 cup (25 mL) Barilla Rotini, dry

1 small acorn squash

1/2 cup (125 mL) butter

1/2 cup (125 mL) heavy cream

3 sprigs of fresh sage

1/4 cup (60 mL) walnuts

1/4 cup (60 mL) dry white wine

2 cloves garlic

1 small shallot

1 small chunk Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil

1 Tbsp (15 mL) maple syrup

Salt, pepper and chili flakes to taste

Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Sseason with salt and black pepper, and roast in the oven, skin side up at 425 F for 40 minutes or until soft.

Chop the garlic and shallot and saute in a small pot in 1 Tbsp (15 mL) of olive oil for two minutes. Add a pinch of salt, pepper and chili flakes. Deglaze with the white wine and reduce for one minute to cook off the alcohol. Add cream and bring to a simmer. Turn off.

Scoop out one of the squash halves and add to the pot with the cream. Blend with a small stick (immersion) blender or transfer to a food processor and puree until smooth. Set aside and keep warm. Scoop out the second squash half into a small bowl. Cut into bite-sized pieces and set aside, keeping it warm.

Heat a frying pan on medium high and add 1 Tbsp (15 mL) of olive oil. Add the walnuts and toast for two-three minutes, stirring every 15 seconds. Remove from heat. Add the maple syrup and toss to coat the nuts. Cool slightly before chopping and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Season with salt. Cook the Barilla pasta until al dente, following the instructions on the box. Strain past and transfer to a large frying pan. Strain the pasta and transfer to a large frying pan. Add the warm acorn squash puree and toss to coat. Grate some fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano into the pan and add a few chopped sage leaves. Toss to combine.

Divide the pasta into two large bowls. Grate more Parmigiano-Reggiano on top with a microplane. Garnish with the chopped maple walnuts and a bit more sage. Serves two.