Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Winter Vegetables with Pasta

Hearty, stodgy, starchy winter vegetables really lend themselves well to the long cooking processes, like stewing and braising and roasting, that warm up the kitchen nicely as the cold weather settles in. Weeknights are often too hectic for more leisurely cooking methods, however, so if you want root vegetables and squash on busy days (don’t we all) you either have to be very organized (ya, right) and make dishes ahead when you have the time, or find something quick and easy.

Well, a nice way to get quick-cooking roots, tubers and squash is to shred them. And a nice way to feature those quick-cooked shredded veggies is to toss them with pasta. Perhaps I sound like I know what I’m talking about from vast experience, but really I just learned this easy recipe from Recipes from the Root Cellar by Andrea Chesman.

This is really quite simple. If you have a food processor with a shredding disk, most of the work is done for you. The hardest thing is peeling the vegetables, which can really be a pain in the knuckles, depending on what you use. Stick to easier things to peel like carrots, parsnips and turnips if you want to save even more time. Once you get everything peeled and shredded, the dish only takes as long to make as it takes to cook the pasta.

You can use whatever winter vegetables you like to make this dish, which is further flavored with broth, white wine, and plenty of butter. I used Red Kuri squash, rutabaga, parsnip and celeriac (aka celery root), but would probably also be very happy with carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes and even daikon radishes. This might even be a good use for the leftover odds and ends of root vegetables that you’re not sure what to do with. If you’re insane, you could even use beets (not my idea of a good time), although the red varieties will turn your dish that tell-tale weird color. (No hiding beets here.)

This dish can cure your hunger and clean out your vegetable bin on a cold winter night, but, most importantly, it tastes great. The vegetables meld together into a mellow flavor and an almost saucy texture, which, I have to admit, is significantly enhanced by the butter. (I left some of the fat out of the recipe, but I think there’s still plenty there.) Humble root vegetables and squash are elevated to something pretty elegant here, but I’ve always thought they deserved higher status anyway. Except for beets, of course. My Pasta with Shredded Winter Vegetables is a beet-free zone!

Pasta with Shredded Winter Vegetables
Adapted from Recipes from the Root Cellar by Andrea Chesman

I used reduced-sodium chicken broth in this dish. If you use one with more salt, reduce the amount of added salt and adjust to taste as needed. Use vegetable broth for a vegetarian option.

¾ pound uncooked fettuccine or linguini
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cups peeled and shredded assorted winter vegetables (such as winter squash, turnips, rutabaga, celeriac, parsnips, carrots, etc.)
4 medium-size garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup dry white wine (I used a very inexpensive Chardonnay)
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. (You can begin step 2 while the water is heating.) Salt the water and add the pasta. Cook until the pasta is tender but not overcooked. Drain the pasta and reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water.

2. While preparing the pasta, place 2 tablespoons of the butter and the olive oil in a large skillet. Heat over medium heat until the butter melts. Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons butter into very small pieces and set aside.

3. Add the shredded vegetables, garlic, onion, salt and pepper to the heated oil and butter in the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, about 8 minutes or until the vegetables are beginning to soften.

4. Add the wine and broth. Cook about 5 minutes more or until the vegetables are tender. Taste for tenderness and for salt and cook longer or add any seasonings if needed. If the pasta is not finished cooking, keep warm.

5. Add the cooked pasta and reserved 2 tablespoons butter to the pan. Toss to mix well until the butter is melted. Add some of the reserved pasta cooking water if needed to form a moist sauce.

Makes 4-6 main-dish servings. This would probably also be good as a side dish with meat or some other protein.

Other recipes like this one: Pasta with Squash Puree and Blue Cheese Sauce, Winter Vegetable Galettes with Cheddar, Mustard and Caramelized Onions, Shaved Vegetable Salad with Cider-Sage Vinaigrette

One year ago: Beet and Orange Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Two years ago: Winter Vegetable Galettes with Cheddar, Mustard and Caramelized Onions

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