2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon chopped sage, plus 20 whole leaves
1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 pound fusilli or other curly pasta
1/4 cup freshly grated aged Asiago cheese, plus more for serving
How to Make It
Preheat the oven to 400°. On a large rimmed baking sheet, drizzle the squash with 2 tablespoons of oil and toss. Arrange in an even layer and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Bake for about 30 minutes, until just tender. Add the chopped sage and toss.
Meanwhile, put the pecans in a pie plate and bake for about 4 minutes, until toasted.
In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the whole sage leaves and cook over moderate heat, turning once, until crisp, 2 minutes. Transfer the leaves to a plate and pour the butter into a bowl. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and the sausage to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat, breaking up the sausage, until no pink remains, 7 minutes.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the sausage and melted butter and gradually stir in the cooking water over moderate heat. Gently fold in the squash, pecans and the 1/4 cup of cheese. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl. Scatter the sage on top and serve with more cheese.
It's a simple winter dish that's good for the weeknight (have butternut squash prepared ahead of time, of course). The pecans didn't add anything to the dish for most people, but someone did like them. I wouldn't consider them necessary. Consider adding at least 1/2 cup of asiago cheese if not a full cup. Expect people to add more, if you consider your diners as having the "average American" appetite.
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