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A taste of Italy as the leaves begin to fall
by Chef Elizabeth Davis of the Marion Hy-Vee · October 31st, 2016

It was exactly a year ago that I was in Italy with my husband studying cuisine and traveling and enjoying the many delicious foods. One of my favorite fall foods happens to be butternut squash. Do I have any amens out there? Its rich orange color and velvet-like texture lend to nearly any dish, whether roasted, steamed, stewed, baked or even grilled. Its limited nature brings an appreciation for its treasured seasonality among chefs, gardeners, and supermarkets alike.

In the 19th century the Spanish brought the widely grown butternut squash back to Europe and it quickly became a staple in Italy, where it is harvested mainly in October and November. Italians use "zucca," as it's called in Italian, to create dishes such as soups, risottos, casseroles, gnocci, pastas and more. One of my favorite and most simple ways to prepare zucca at home is a humble pasta dish of parmigiano reggiano, nutmeg, and of course the butternut squash.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

4 cups cooked egg pasta

4 cups butternut squash ,peeled and cubed into bite-sized pieces

2-3 tablespoons butter

a dash of extra virgin olive oil

1 cup finely shredded parmigiano reggiano

a pinch of whole nutmeg, grated

a pinch of white pepper

Kosher salt as needed

Method of Preparation:

1. Begin by steaming the cubes of squash until they are just tender enough to be pierced by a fork; drain and set aside. Reserve the steaming juice.

2. In a large saute pan add the pasta, squash, nutmeg, white pepper, and some of the reserved steaming liquid. Mix well, add the butter and olive oil and taste. It should have only a slight hint of each spice. Now season lightly with salt if needed.

3. Now divide into bowls and top with parmigiano or even layer in the parmigiano. This way everyone gets enough and there are no clumps. Taste your own bowl to check it out and make sure everything is all right. Add anything if needed and serve immediately.

NOTE: Sage is a wonderful addition to this recipe, so if you have some, toss some into Step 2.

Written by the world traveled Chef Elizabeth Davis of the Marion Hy-Vee. Feel free to stop in and ask her questions or hire her to make this and other dishes in your own home.
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