Quite often, best things in life come unexpectedly and suddenly. It is that moment when you go “OMG, what has just happened?? Wow, can’t believe it! Pinch pinch!”. Then you pinch yourself to realize it is truly happening and life in all its’ shades is sooo amazing!
This exact moment manifested in my kitchen recently when tasting one of the yummiest pasta sauces ever. And trust me, living in the Western Mediterranean, I have tasted many.
So here is the deal. Make sure you get one medium fennel bulb and butternut squash ASAP. Check your Mediterranean herbs supplies, stock up if necessary, follow my recipe, and enjoy magical scents spreading around the kitchen during prep phase. Time to learn firsthand what a power couple butternut squash and fennel make.
Just to repeat the healthy alphabet lesson, both veggies in this sauce are packed with abundance of essential vitamins, minerals and fibers, especially with vitamins A, C, B6, calcium, potassium and manganese*. Read: anti-flu, strong bones, muscles and a healthy heart. Go one step further with the health factor by opting for a more wholesome pasta version such as wholegrain, spelt, buckwheat, or gluten free with rice and corn. Pasta shape is up to your liking, everything goes 🙂 .
Let me go back to the start of this story now. Still owe you an explanation of that Eureka moment. Well, it is quite simple – fennel and butternut squash pairing is just out of this World! Experiment was purely accidental; this poor fennel bulb had been staring at me from the bottom of my fridge for days. So did the squash from the corner of my pantry. Started feeling guilty for stocking up just for the stocking up sake. Sounds familiar?))
With arrival of colder days, the most logical solution was to throw them in a pan together, play around with spices, and see what happens. In the end of the day, pasta can take anything, there was nothing to lose. This nothing to lose kitchen attitude brought me to discovery of my favorite winter pasta dish! So freaky good, that I decided to halt all other experiments; been making this dish nearly every single day, just cannot have enough! Fennel and squash are haunting me in my dreams. He he, OK, it is not that extreme, but you get my point – fennel + squash = mind blowing meal.
At this stage, you should be somewhere on the way to the closest supermarket with only one thought in your mind: “fennel & squash, today I eat posh :-).
Are you there yet?
Bon appetite guys, carpe every single bite!
“The it” winter pasta sauce feat. the power couple fennel and butternut squash. Casts
away the winter blues while keeping you safe from the flu.
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 1 smaller fennel (cca. 270-300 g. uncleaned)
- 1 smaller butternut squash (cca. 450 g. uncleaned)
- 2 larger cloves garlic
- 8 leaves fresh basil (or 2 tsps of dry)
- 2 tsps dry thyme
- 2 tsps salt
- 1,5 tsps black pepper
- a pinch ground chili pepper (a pinch literally)
- 200 ml cooking cream (oat is the best for vegan version)
- 2 tbsps wine, red or white dry (optional)
- 400 g pasta of your choice (100 g. per person)
Peel and finely chop garlic cloves.
Wash and chop fennel; bulb into stripes (similar to chopping peppers for fajitas), and stalks into rings, about 0,5 cm/0,20 inch thick.
Chop butternut squash into few thick rings. Cut off all the hard skin, then chop the flesh into smaller cubes, also about 0,5 cm/0,20 inch in size. Do not worry about the exact size though, go roughly and with the flow. The finer you chop, the quicker it will turn mushy
during the cooking process (this is our goal).
Heat olive oil in a non-stick pan with higher edges on a medium heat (something between a wok and a regular pan).
Once oil is heated, throw chopped garlic, and stir fry for about 30 seconds literally, just enough for it to start releasing its’ flavour.
Then add chopped fennel, 1 tsp of salt, 1 tsp of black pepper, all the herbs (fresh or dry version) & ground chili pepper.
Stir fry for 5 minutes, add chopped butternut squash, and remaining salt & black pepper.
Stir fry for 2 minutes on a medium heat.
Add tiny bit of water (3 tbsps max.), stir it well, and let it fry for another 10 minutes. At this stage you can add some wine if using. Keep an eye on it however; stir every 2 minutes and add a bit more water if necessary, to avoid bottom sticking.
Mission here is to stir fry until squash starts getting a bit mushy. Adding some water enhances the process.
Squash is starting to get a bit mushy? Great! It is time to add cooking cream. Pour it into your veggie mixture, and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, start heating pasta water and boil it according to the package instructions.
Do not forget to turn off the heat from your past sauce 5 minutes after addition of cream 🙂
Once pasta is boiled, drain it and return it to the pot. Add fennel & squash sauce, stir it well, heat it up, and oh my, start indulging!!!
p.s. taste the sauce before turning the heat off, and adjust spices to your liking needed be.
- Basil and thyme are basic spices; play around with other Mediterranean herbs, or add a bit of Herbs de Provence mix if you have it handy.
- Cooking cream – regular dairy cooking cream is fine. However, I like to go on a lighter note with pasta sauces, so for this particular recipe, oat cooking cream is my #1 choice.
- Excellent toppings: grilled pumpkin seeds, shavings of Parmesan or some other hard cheese, nutritional yeast for fully vegan version, toasted sesame seeds…
- This dish is even yummier (and healthier) when accompanied by rocket (arugula) & cherry tomatoes salad as a side.