Pasta con zucca, cannellini e salvia
Un periodo più semplice - A more simple time
I'm back from a bit of an unintentional hiatus. I haven't cooked much in the last month or so as I've been stressing about the upcoming election and feeling worn out from living in a pandemic. I know you can relate. So instead of dreaming up new recipes to try, I've been making many stops at my local sweetgreen, heating up frozen foods, or sticking to the basics.
I've been quite nostalgic for simpler times, and one era of my past keeps coming back to me. It was 2009, I was 17, and I was on a month-long trip to Italy. My high school had a sister school in Florence, so every year about 15 kids from my high school would get paired up with pen pals from the Italian high school, and in February, the American kids would go live with their pen pals for a month. Sounds like a dream, and it was. It really was. *Cue Titanic theme music here.*
My best friend went on the trip with me, and we really lived out all the study abroad tropes with zero awareness of how cliche we were but with all the excitement of teenagers experiencing freedom in one of the world's most beautiful cities for the first time. It felt like Florence cast a spell on me, and I found myself doing things "American Olivia" would never have done at 17. I smoked European cigarettes, got rides on the back of a Vespa from a handsome Italian boy, sat in piazze drinking Bacardi Breezers in my Florentine leather jacket...
I even had my first real big breakthrough with the Italian language during this trip. My pen pal was an only child named Jacopo who lived with his parents. He was, to put it lightly, uno sfigato. He and his parents had none of the seemingly innate charm or charisma that most Italians have. Many odd things occurred during my stay in his family's home, but the night of my breakthrough was the night his parents yelled at me for not getting ready to leave the house quickly enough, stating that I was going to ruin their son's reputation for always being on time. Now, if you've ever made plans with an Italian, you know that meeting times are merely suggestions and that staking a reputation on timeliness is a pretty weird choice. Nevertheless, his father's voice bellowed into the bathroom as I was straightening my hair, and I finally whipped open the bathroom door and yelled right back at him. I angrily strung together several indignant sentences in the most fluent Italian I had spoken to date. Stunned at myself, I flung on my leather jacket and walked proudly out of the palazzo, leaving poor Jacopo in my wake. "Italian Olivia" was really feeling herself.
Here is a picture of my best friend Lizzy and me (leather jacket and all) outside Liceo Gramsci in Florence, scowling at the camera for some forgotten reason. What I wouldn't give to be young and angsty again instead of almost 30 and still angsty.
What does all this have to with butternut squash and sage pasta? I'm really not sure. But everyone needs some autumnal flavor to evoke cozy vibes and help ease us into daydreams about the days we felt like we were on top of the world.
La Ricetta ~ The Recipe
Gli ingredienti ~ The ingredients
ziti ~ ziti (I used gluten free) - 1 lb.
una cipolla rossa ~ 1 red onion
una zucca ~ 1 small butternut squash
fagioli cannellini ~ cannellini beans - 1 can
burro ~ butter - 4 tablespoons
salvia ~ sage - approx. 20 fresh leaves
aglio ~ garlic - 2 cloves, minced
olio extravergine d'oliva ~ extra virgin olive oil - 3-4 tablespoons
parmigiano grattugiato ~ grated Parmesan cheese - 3/4 cup
sale ~ salt
pepe ~ pepper
Step 1. Preheat the oven 375°.
Step 2. Peel the squash and scrape out the seeds. Chop into 1 inch cubes or smaller.
Step 3. Dice the onion.
Step 4. Add the squash and onion to a baking sheet, add the olive oil and a healthy pinch of salt and pepper. Bake for 35 minutes. Flip halfway through baking.
Step 5. Cook your pasta for two minutes less than the package requires and drain.
Step 6. While the squash and onion is baking and your pasta is boiling, heat up the butter in a skillet and add the sage leaves when it gets hot. Let them sizzle until the butter begins to brown. Then add the garlic and cook for another few minutes until the sage leaves get crispy.
Step 7. Drain the can of cannellini beans while the sage is crisping.
Step 8. Add the pasta, butternut squash, onions, beans, and sage back to the skillet and cook for a few minutes more, allowing the beans to heat through and the pasta to soak up the flavors and buttery goodness.
Step 9. Add the Parmesan cheese and serve while hot.