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Butternut squash Cannelloni with Walnut-Sage Béchamel Sauce

Butternut-Squash-Cannelloni-with-Walnut-Sage-Sauce_Yes,-more-please!Its warm in the Lone Star State. We’re still waiting in Texas for some cool Autumn weather. We are still in the 80’s around here if you know what I mean. The only indication of Fall, besides the calendar, are the beautiful pumpkins, squashes, sweet potatoes, root vegetables and leafy greens at the markets.

This last Sunday, I found small butternut squash, acorn squash, and some white mini pumpkins. While some people are turning them into candle holders, I think they are the perfect individual size for dinner. They cook fast and leave no left-overs.

Buternut-squash-Cannelloni_the-vegetables

With this in mind, and the romantic idea of having a Fall season, I turned my oven on and thought about the most autumn dish I could bake, and this is what I came up with: Butternut Squash Cannelloni with a Walnut-Sage Bechamel sauce. Dreamy. This recipe has a long name and a short preparation. It is not hard to Imagine pasta sheets filled with delicate butternut squash, baby spinach, onions and goat cheese; rolled and smothered with a light creamy, nutty walnut-sage béchamel sauce, some mozzarella on top and.. Kazam! You have Fall on a plate. Nutty, creamy, warm, cheesy, the kind of dinner you want to snuggle with…In Texas we snuggle in shorts and t-shirts. Or you can fake it and watch a movie with maple trees, and turn your A/C to 64F grab a little blanket and for a few hours pretend is Fall….Not that we have done this…ehem, ehem.

Mean time we will patiently wait in shorts and T-shirts for the winter… maybe I should make Margaritas instead!… Enjoy the recipe.

Buternut-squash-Cannelloni_pasta-and-sauce-ingredients

Butternut squash Cannelloni with Walnut-Sage Bechamel Sauce.

Serves 4

12 cannelloni pasta tubes or 12 lasagna sheets.

For the filling:

1 small butternut squash peeled and cut into small cubes
2 cups baby spinach or baby kale
1/2 medium onion small diced.
1 glug extra virgin olive oil
2 pinches of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
4 oz. Chèvre Goat cheese

For the sauce:

1/2 cup blanched and toasted walnuts
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons butter
Zest 1/2 lemon
1-2 pinches nutmeg (freshly grated preferred )
2-3 Sage leaves whole*
1/2 teaspoon salt
4-6 cranks of fresh ground black pepper

Fresh mozzarella ( liberal amounts upon your preference)

3-4 Sage leaves to garnish

*Note: Sage its a powerful herb, I levee it whole to just perfume the sauce and leave it whole as garnish also enhances the dish and brings out delicious aromas. I prefer not to chop the sage on dishes like this, because it becomes a bit bitter, and is not very pleasant to bite into them, they will overwhelm the delicate flavor of the butternut squash. However, If you love sage and its a flavor you enjoy, feel free to adjust to your taste.

Preparation:

1. Using a little glug of olive oil Sauté the onions and butternut squash until tender. Finally add spinach salt, pepper and nutmeg; toss well then remove from stove and let it cool down. Add the goat cheese in crumbles once the filling is cool, toss gently.
2. Pre-cook your pasta sheets according the directions on your package. Remember to salt your water to flavor the pasta. Remove the sheets from boiling water 3-4 minutes before, according to directions. Shock them in iced water to stop cooking, and avoid to stick together.

Buternut-squash-Cannelloni_pasta-and-sauce-preparation
3. Make the sauce.  Start by blanching the walnuts in warm water for 5 minutes, this will eliminate any bitterness from the walnut skins. Drain the walnuts and toast them on a large skillet for a few minutes. Blend the walnuts with 1/2 cup of the milk until smooth. Then incorporate with the rest of the milk.

Walnuts
4. In the same large skillet, over medium heat, place the butter until melted and bubbly. Add the flour and whisk well to combine until no lumps and the buttered flour looks light golden-yellow in color. Start adding the walnut-milk in smaller additions and whisk at all times to avoid lumps, until the 2 cups of milk are incorporated. You might need to reduce the heat to medium low while whisking. After all the milk is incorporated season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg and sage leaves. Bring too a slow simmer and remove from heat. The consistency should be of a light creamy thickness, if to thick, add more milk, to lose, place it back to the heat and whisk until desired consistency.
It should cover the back of a spoon see picture below.

Butternut-Squash-Cannelloni_how-to-make-bechamel-walnut-sage-sauce
3. Prepare a baking dish with butter, or a little olive oil, add a bit  of the sauce on the bottom.
4. Start by filling the cannelloni’s pasta tubes or by placing the filling on one end of the precooked pasta sheets and roll them up tightly. Proceed to do the same with each pasta sheet. Place the cannelloni rolls into your baking dish as you go.
5. Cover all the pasta rolls with the walnut-sage sauce, reserve some of the sauce.
6. Cover with mozzarella slices, then pour the remainder of the sauce, top with some sage leaves.

Butternut-Squash-Cannelloniwith-sage-and-walnut-sauce_assambling-the-rolls
7. Bake at 375F for 20-30 minutes until cheese is melted and top is blistered.
8. Let it rest for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Note: Not too fond of rolling? make it into lasagna layers, you also can add some cooked ground turkey or sausage to the butternut -spinash filling and it will be equally delicious. I just love the way the Cannellonis portions out. Enjoy!

Butternut-squash-Cannelloni-with-Walnut-Sage-Sauce_out-of-the-oven-

Butternut-squash-Cannelloni-with-Walnut-Sage-Sauce_Yes,-more-please!-

 Music Pairing: Autum Leaves – Miles Davis

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Bucatini a’ll Amatriciana a Roman story…

Bucatini-Pasta_serves-2-hungry-turist_Yes,-more-please!

Tomato Season in full bloom, but we have to move quick because here in Austin, July is the end of it. These red jewels do not handle triple digit temperatures. We have been eating them faster than I can come up with recipes to share; adding them to omelets, frittatas, salads, or as simple as slicing them with a bit of lemon juice and sea salt. Yes, I love them that much! I’m in tomato season heaven.

So the search for tomato inspiration involved going through my cookbooks. In search of a classic tomato recipe I ran into this pasta recipe that is very dear to my heart, Bucatini a’ll Amatriciana.
The first time we had this Roman classic, the way Italians intended, was in Rome. We spend almost one whole day at the Vatican Galleries walking and absorbing every single piece of art from the loooong corridors, from sculptures, tapestries, paintings, murals, jewels, did I say sculptures, murals, paintings? We finished the day at the Sistine Chapel, and Saint Pietro. Oh, my! we had an Art binge that day. After more than 6 hours, trapped and surrounded by the most amazing pieces of art and history we grew a voracious appetite. We felt like liberated lions in the Coliseum! Our stomachs were growling, we were in ‘art coma’. Hungry, thirsty and desperate, we noticed that we were surrounded by religious and souvenir stores…but we wanted food!!! We walked and walked the narrow Roman streets, searching for a non touristy dinner… And suddenly we were lost. Oh no, that was not good at all! Hunger does not let you think and makes you disoriented. We were getting grouchy and tired.

But as you know there is no harm that lasts a hundred years. Suddenly we saw a place with a big sign that said “Forno a Legna”, the most incredible arousing smell coming out of the door and a young man with a great smile (and the word buffalo mozzarella pizza). We felt like we had found the oasis on the desert, hypnotized and in a state of art coma, we sat down and this great polite man received us. We just told him “We need food; you feed us.” We had Caprese Buffalo Mozzarella Salad, Wood Fired Pizza Capricciosa, a Green Salad and we trusted him to bring us his favorite pasta.

When food arrived to the table it was incredible, everything looked and smelled so good, except for the pasta which did not looked very promising. At first sight it looked like “that famous Italian chef canned pasta” were the tomato sauce is kind of scattered and looked a bit under sauced. The noodles where very thick and they had sprinkled it with copious amounts of Pecorino Romano. I thought he was pulling a tourist pasta on us… I was so hungry that we did not care at that point.

To our big surprise the first bite of that pasta was a revelation. I felt like the whole Vatican art collection pasted a slide show in my head. That pasta was the best pasta I’ve ever had. Bucatini a’ll Amatriciana. Ian and I looked at each other incredulous of this amazing feast, we kept eating and making sounds of extremely joy and comfort. When we finished, all sort of questions were bombarding my head. This was by far the best pasta we ever had. Perfectly cooked, this thick spaghetti-looking pasta had a hole in the middle that was filled with all the juices from the sauce. The most luscious, salty and tomatoey sauce I ever had. And as we ate it we tasted the occasional piece of rendered guanciale, a cured meat. The Pecorino Romano added a perfect texture, and the pasta was silky and had the perfect balance of utterly delicious tomato flavor. This pasta would be best described as an Aria to tomato flavor.

At the end of our dinner, Ian and I just looked at each other amazed by what we just had eaten. I wanted to know everything about this pasta. I called the young man and he introduced himself. His name was Luca and he was the son of the owner of the restaurant. Like in most cases this restaurant was family owned. Luca told us all about the pasta; Bucatini a’ll Amatriciana, his favorite pasta. He described the preparation and the ingredients. I was in awe of the fact that there where just four ingredients. This conversation brought me full understanding of the importance of pasta-sauce ratio, the importance of pasta shape and sauce type relationship, best pasta conversation of my life!.

We will always be grateful of Luca to have shared his pasta wisdom with us, to had been such a great hostess and to have enlightened us with this amazing experience.

This Bucatini a’ll Amatriciana brings us lots of great memories and what a best season to make this recipe than tomato season. Please Enjoy!

If you would like to visit Luca in Rome:
Piccolo Buco
Via del lavatore n.91, Rome Italy (Trevi area)

Yes, this place have some funny lettering on the outside … nevertheless please do not measure food quality by this matter…hehehe

Luca,-Picolo-buco_Rome_B&W

Bucatini-Pasta_Yes,-more-please!

Bucatini-a'llAmatriciana_ingredients

Bucatini a’ll Amatriciana a Roman story…

Serves 4 or 2 hungry, lost souls.

1 lb. bucatini pasta, I used Rustichella d’Abruzzo, De Cecco, Del Verde, Garofalo, Barilla will be all good options.

4 slices of thick not smoked-cured bacon or pancetta or guanciale, diced. Best option of the tree: Guanciale. I used Bacon that was what I had available.

1 lb. fresh ripe tomatoes, I used a combination of heirloom and red plum tomatoes, San Marzano will be idyllic, I just wanted to use what is in season and it turned out fantastic!

1 small or half a white sweet onion, thinly sliced or diced.

2 pinches of red pepper flakes

1/4 cup olive oil

½ cup of freshly grated Pecorino Romano.

1 sprig of fresh oregano. (if you can not get fresh oregano omit it, dry oregano has too strong flavor profile for this recipe.)

Notes:
Italians traditionally make Amatriciana sauce with Guanciale, salt-cured pork jowl. It is similar to pancetta, but not as lean, and therefore has a richer flavor. Pancetta is the second option and a little more meaty. The third option is cured / NON-smoked bacon. I used the bacon of a well-known organic brand that makes a great cured/non-smoked delicious and leaner bacon.

Preparation:

1. In a large pot, start by heating up your pasta water and a couple of good sea salt pinches.
2. Mean time, with the help of a cheese grater, grate your tomatoes, omitting the skins.

Bucatini-a'll-Amatriciana_Grated-Tomato
3. Cut your onions and Bacon.
4. In a non-reactive heavy bottom pan or a stainless steel pan add half of your olive oil and cook your bacon, pancetta or guanciale until crispy. Remove half of the crispy bits and add the onions.
5. Cook the onions until soft. And add the pinch of red pepper flakes. (see picture below)

Bucatini-a'lla-Amatriciana_onions,-bacon
6. Add your grated tomatoes, oregano sprig and cook for the same amount of time that it will take to cook your pasta.
7. Add your pasta to the boiling water and cook following the directions on the package to be ardent approximately 6-7 minutes or other wise.
8. Reserve some pasta water. Drain your pasta, and add the pasta to the sauce, add some pasta water if needed, add the rest of the oil and reserved bacon, adjust seasoning.
9. Marry the pasta by cooking for another 2 minutes…

Bucatini-a'll-Amatriciana_sauce_it!
10. Serve immediately and sprinkle with generous amounts of grated pecorino Romano.
*Sprinkle some fresh oregano leaves if desired…Roman people will kill me I know…but it tastes so good!

Bucatini-a'll-Amatriciana-with-pecorino-Romano_Yes,-more-please!

Bucatini-a'll-Amatriciana_Yes,-more-please!

Viva Roma!

https://youtu.be/3o15UTomYsc

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