I love butternut squash and could eat it daily if there weren’t so may other delicious ingredients to work with. I also adore a truly good bowl of carbonara pasta, and although I have posted recipes for creamy Butternut Squash Pasta as well as my favorite Pasta Carbonara, I have never tried combining the two recipes until today. Now that I have, I wonder whatever took me so long to do so! The sweetness of the squash pairs perfectly with the salty guanciale (or pancetta) and the eggs and cheese adds a richness that is irresistible. I tossed in some crispy fried sage leaves and topped the pasta with additional grated Pecorino Romano cheese as well as the all important black pepper which actually gave this dish its name. It is said that this classic Italian dish was named for coal miners around Rome because the black specks of pepper resemble coal dust.
Like all Italian recipes I share, the quality of ingredients you use will directly affect the final dish. For this recipe, choose fresh, free range eggs, a good quality Pecorino Romano cheese, and either Italian pancetta or guanciale. It is impossible to find guanciale here in Florida where we are, so I often order mine online. I stumbled across a website selling American made nduja (spreadable spicy Calabrian sausage) called Nduja Artisans and found the guanciale on their website. Guanciale is cured meat or bacon made from pork cheeks. The guanciale at Nduja Artisans “is made with 100% Berkshire Pork, raised on family farms in southern Minnesota. They are never given antibiotics, no growth promotants or hormones, and always vegetarian-fed.” After reading the description of this guanciale, I just had to order some. They even have two types, either spicy, or mild, and I couldn’t help myself so I ordered both along with some nduja of course!
To make this pasta, you need a cup or so of butternut squash puree. The easiest way to obtain that is to cut your squash in half, scoop out the seeds and place cut side up on a baking sheet. Cover with foil, and bake in a preheated 375 degree F oven for about 45 minutes to an hour (depending on size) or until the squash is fork tender. Allow the squash to cool, and then scoop it from the shell and puree in a blender or food processor. You only need one cup for this recipe, so save the rest for another recipe, maybe muffins? I used bucatini pasta in my carbonara because I already had it on hand and wanted to use it up. I have used spaghetti, and even penne when making carbonara, and although long pasta is preferred, my grandkids prefer short pasta and it all tastes the same. I find because of the richness of this sauce that a pound of pasta will serve six people just fine. The trick to this pasta is to reserve some of the hot pasta water and to stir the eggs into the hot pasta quickly along with a little of the water. If the sauce seems too thick, you can always loosen it with a little extra water. The sauce should be creamy smooth, and gently coat each strand of pasta.
Deborah Mele 2015
- 1/2 Cup Diced Pancetta or Guanciale
- 8 Fresh Large Sage Leaves
- 1 Cup Butternut Squash Puree
- 2 Eggs Plus 2 Egg Yolks (From Large Eggs)
- 1/3 Cup Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
- 1 Teaspoon Coarsely Ground Black Pepper
- 1 Pound Pasta of Choice
- Additional Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
- & Black Pepper
- In a small frying pan over medium heat, cook the pancetta or guanciale until lightly browned.
- Remove the pancetta from the pan and place on paper towels until needed.
- Fry the sage leaves in the hot bacon fat over medium heat for a minute or two or just until they crisp up. Do not let them burn!
- Place the sage leaves on the paper towels with the pancetta.
- Once cool, crumble the sage a bit with your fingertips.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and then cook the pasta according to the package directions.
- While the pasta is cooking, in a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks, cheese, and black pepper.
- When the pasta is “al dente”, drain, reserving a cup of pasta water.
- Return the pasta to the pot and add the pancetta, crumbled sage, and squash puree along with 1/3 of a cup of the pasta water.
- Cook over medium heat stirring vigorously to coat the pasta with the squash puree.
- Remove the pot from the heat, and add the egg mixture to the pot stirring vigorously until the eggs have blended smoothly into the sauce, adding additional pasta water to loosen the sauce as needed.
- Serve the pasta in individual bowls topped with additional grated cheese and black pepper if desired.