"This pasta," Mario Batali says, "always propels me into fall." You can substitute pumpkin or hubbard squash—whichever looks more beautiful at your market—for the butternut. "Cook the squash until it's soft but not falling apart—you don't want al dente squash, but you don't want mush either," Batali says.
Plus: Pasta Recipes and Tips
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
2 pounds butternut squash—peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds cavatelli or small shells
3/4 cup freshly grated caciocavallo, pecorino or Parmesan cheese, plus more
How to Make It
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, onion and crushed red pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic and onion are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the squash and thyme, season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the cavatelli to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Add the cavatelli to the squash mixture in the skillet, then stir in 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and toss gently to combine. Add the 3/4 cup of caciocavallo, season with salt and pepper and stir gently; add a little more pasta water if necessary. Serve the pasta right away, passing more cheese at the table.
Joe Bastianich recommends a simple, fruity Sangiovese here, which pairs well with the sweet sautéed squash.
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