1 lg. butternut squash (2 3/4 - 3 1/4 lb), peeled, seeded, & cubed (about 6 C.)
1/2 C. water
2/3 C. pine nuts
1 lg. onion, finely chopped
1 lb. pasta (something sturdy, like rigatoni or penne)
2 T. olive oil
3/4 t. smoked paprika
6 fresh sage leaves
1 T. unsalted butter
5 oz. soft blue cheese
3 T. Marsala
1. Prep the squash and cut into 1-inch cubes. (Don??t make them much smaller or the squash will get mushy during cooking.)
2. Saut the onion in olive oil in a large pan that can hold the cooked pasta too. When the onion starts getting golden, add the paprika. Note: smoked paprika adds a lovely depth of flavor. If you can??t find it or order it on the Internet, use regular paprika instead and add one drop of liquid smoke if you like.
3. Stir the butter and squash cubes into the onion mixture. Add the Marsala and water. Bring to a simmer, cover, and reduce the heat. Cook about 10 minutes, till the squash is barely tender. It??s OK to slightly undercook the squash, since it will finish in the sauce.
4. Meanwhile cook the pasta just to the al dente stage in salted boiling water. Undercook it slightly??flabby pasta isn??t good!
5. Toast the pine nuts in a hot, dry frying pan till dark golden brown. Watch them carefully so they don??t burn. Set them aside on a plate to cool.
6. Lightly season the squash mixture with salt and remove from the heat. (Don??t overdo it, because the blue cheese contributes saltiness.)
7. Finely chop the sage leaves; sprinkle sage over the squash, reserving a bit for garnish.
8. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 C of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the squash mixture. Stir gently and add pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce.
9. Add most of the pine nuts and blue cheese to the mixture. Stir gently and transfer to a warm serving bowl. Garnish with reserved sage, pine nuts, and blue cheese.
Makes about 6 (or more) servings. This dish is delicious and fancy??perfect for a special dinner. Since it??s quite rich, serve it with a simple green salad with either fresh orange segments or tomato chunks.