Last night Brian and I made one of our favorite dishes, albeit one that we always improvise. Here is an attempt at making a recipe out of it.
- 3-4 small-medium sized tomatoes (they don’t need to be very ripe since they are going to be roasted – Roma tomatoes are a good choice)
- 1 Romano Red Pepper, or your favorite bell pepper variety
- Four cloves garlic
- One butternut squash*
- Smoky paprika (we use this kind)
- Fresh and dried herbs (you can use any of your favorite herbs, below I suggest what I used)
- Pancetta (or a nice bacon)
- Fresh Tagliatelle (or dried, but fresh is a lot nicer – you can buy it or make it)
- Spring onions (scallions, in the US)
- Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper
*FYI – I have made this recently with a pumpkin it wasn’t as good. I also made it with a butternut squash that was weirdly hard and it also wasn’t good. Make sure you have a really fresh butternut squash!
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Chop the tomatoes into approximately 1-inch pieces. It depends on the size of your tomatoes. I usually end up cutting them in half through the core, and then cutting each half into about six pieces. Put these in a baking pan that is large enough for their to be a single layer of pepper and tomato.
- Clean and deseed the pepper. Cut into pieces that are about the same size as the tomato pieces or just slightly smaller. Dump these into the pan with the tomatoes.
- Put the four cloves of garlic (with their peels on! do not peel them) in with the tomatoes and peppers and then season the mix. I usually put about a teaspoon of fennel seed, a teaspoon of thyme (less if it is fresh), some celery salt (1/2 teaspoon approx.), and some oregano or basil. Then add a bit of fresh cracked pepper and some olive oil to help the herbs stick to the veg. Mix it all well so that everything is coated.
- Pop the pepper/tomato mix in the hot oven and set a timer for about 40 minutes.
- Peel the butternut squash and cut the wide bottom part from the thinner part. Cut the wide part in half and scoop out the seeds. Then chop the whole squash into small pieces, about 1-inch cubes are ideal.
- Dump the chopped squash into a baking pan. Sprinkle with about a tablespoon of the smoky paprika. Add some fresh ground pepper (we use a mix of white and black peppercorns) and a small bit of salt (if you are using the pancetta I recommend putting little or no salt in the squash). Drizzle olive oil over the top and mix it well. You don’t want a lot of oil left in the pan – it should only be enough to help the paprika to stick to the squash.
- Add the butternut squash pan to the oven. The squash will take less time to roast then the peppers/tomatoes usually.
- While the veg are roasting I sauté the cubed pancetta, or bacon, in a small amount of olive oil to render it down into slightly crispy or at least cooked pieces. I then drain these on a paper towel and set aside.
- Also while the veg is roasting I chop up a handful of fresh herbs (I used fresh parsley – an underrated herb in my view – and fresh chives) and a few scallions/spring onions and toss them in a bowl.
- The veg may or may not be done after forty minutes. Check the squash to see if it is at a desired softness (not mush) and see if the tomatoes have caramelized a bit. That’s how you’ll know they are done.
- Once the veg is done, boil a big pot of water (with salt and olive oil) and cook the pasta (fresh tagliatelle takes about three minutes to cook, dried about 8 minutes).
- Then, mix everything together – the fresh herbs/onions, the roasted veg (peel the garlic before adding it – it should just pop right out of its skin if its roasted properly), the pancetta/bacon – and add to the pasta. Drizzle olive oil over it to help the flavors of the roasted veg to meld.
- Eat. No parmesan needed.
The above will work with other veg too, of course and the mix of the paprika roasted squash and the more mediterranean spiced tomato/pepper works surprisingly well. This would be good with zucchini (aka courgette) or eggplant (aka aubergine) for the soft veg and acorn squash or pumpkin instead of butternut if that’s what you have. Don’t skip the smoky paprika though or it really doesn’t taste as good.
We ate the leftovers of this today using dried spaghetti as the pasta (we had lots of the veg left) and it was just as tasty – so dried pasta definitely works!