When I was designated a "blogger ambassador" for La Cucina Italiana magazine a few months ago, I wasn't sure what that entailed, but I soon found out when I received a package of goodies with several boxes of Del Verde pasta and a bottle of Lucini olive oil too. Along with these products came an invitation to participate in a promotion called "Dish Your Blog with Delverde Pasta." I was already familiar with Delverde's pasta, which to me is one of the best commercial brands on the market.
A couple of years ago, I traveled to Fara San Martino, in Abruzzo, where DelVerde is located, although I never got to see the inside of DelVerde's manufacturing plant. The Maiella mountains dominate the landscape at this spot in the Appenines and the Verde river, whose waters are used to make this world-famous pasta, runs through here.
Del Verde's pasta has long been a favorite with me, so it was a pleasure to concoct a recipe for the contest.
I used the mezzi rigatoni variety, which to me cries out for a lusty sauce and hearty accompaniments. Sausage just seemed to fit the bill here, and butternut squash too, one of my favorite fall vegetables. The dish needed something to counter the sweetness of the squash, so I added some wild greens I had picked earlier this spring and tucked away in the freezer. Broccoli rape or Tuscan kale would work well here too.
Roast the squash in the oven for about an hour until it's soft enough to scoop out with a spoon. Depending on the size of the squash, you may need to use only half of it - or more, or less.
Sauté shallots and garlic, plus some sage leaves in a bit of olive oil. You'll later purée this in a blender or food processor with the squash and some chicken broth.
The greens were cooked in water, then drained and sautéed with garlic, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. The sausage was cut into small pieces, then browned and drained of grease.
Then comes the fun part - mixing it all together (well, actually eating it is more fun). Sprinkle it with grated parmesan cheese and dig in.
Disclosure: "This recipe is posted as an entry in the Delverde DISH YOUR BLOG recipe contest. The winner receives a trip to NYC and the opportunity to prepare the dish at a GE Showroom in midtown, Manhattan. I received free sample products in addition to the opportunity to compete for the prize."
Mezzi Rigatoni with Sausage and Butternut Squash Sauce
Printable Recipe Here
2 shallots or 1 medium onion, minced
2 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 sage leaves
1 butternut squash
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
1 lb. sausage, cut into small pieces
1 cup greens (wild greens, broccoli rape, swiss chard or kale)
a couple of tablespoons of olive oil for sautéeing the greens
1 clove garlic
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
1 lb. mezzi rigatoni or other sturdy-shaped pasta
grated parmesan cheese.
Cut the butternut squash in half and smear the cut ends with olive oil. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until the flesh is soft enough to scoop. You will need about 2 cups of the butternut squash. Depending on the size of the squash, it may be half of the squash, or more, or less.
Sauté the shallots and garlic in the olive oil until limp. Add the sage leaves and cook for another minute or two. Remove three of the sage leaves, but leave one of them with the shallots.
Place the shallots mixture (and one of the sage leaves) and the 2 cups squash to a blender or food processor. Pour in the chicken broth and blend everything until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Sauté the sausage pieces until browned, then drain any grease.
Cook the greens in water until wilted. Drain, then sauté the garlic in the olive oil until softened, add the greens and season with salt and pepper.
Cook the pasta until al dente, then mix with the sausage, the greens and the butternut squash sauce. (If the butternut squash sauce has thickened too much, add some hot water or chicken broth to thin it a bit. If it has cooled while you've been preparing the other ingredients, then place it in the microwave to reheat before mixing it with the pasta.)
Serve with grated parmesan cheese.