Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Autumn Penne

Ok, the recipe title "Autumn Penne" doesn't begin to give you an idea of how exciting this recipe really is.  That said, I thought that calling it something that would give you a better window into this dish might be a little overwhelming.  You tell me, does "Chicken and Roasted Butternut Squash Penne in a Sage Brown Butter Cream Sauce with Balsamic Reduction Drizzle" sound like a bit much?

One bite, though, and you will agree it's well worth it. 

My sister, who is in the throws of medical school midterms, gave me a hard time the other night after making one of my recipes, a Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie, because it was a bit more involved than my usual posts.  It's true, usually a deciding factor for me in whether I'll try a recipe is how many dirty dishes it will create.  So, in fair warning to my sister, Elise, and other pinched for time friends, this is not going to be the simplest meal you've ever made. 

That said, it will be worth it and in reassurance, I made it on a weeknight and if a few of your components are done ahead of time, you really could throw it together really pretty quickly.  This really is a restaurant-worthy dish and you will feel so fancy and accomplished after making something like a "sage brown butter cream sauce" (trust me, it really is easy!).  This pasta encapsulates all the warm flavors of Fall in a dish and is one I am really excited to make again.  

Autumn Penne (or Chicken and Roasted Butternut Squash Penne in a Sage Brown Butter Cream Sauce with Balsamic Reduction Drizzle)
serves approximately 6
2 cups shredded cooked chicken (this was about one breast and using a rotisserie chicken is a really nice short cut)

1/2 butternut squash (about 1 pound), diced into 1/2" cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

12 oz dried shaped pasta (I used Ronzoni brand penne)

2-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced into slivers (about 2 tablespoons)
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter
8-10 fresh sage leaves, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup cream
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chicken broth

salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup shredded Romano or Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss squash cubes with olive oil and spread in an even layer on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme.  Roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender and starting to turn golden brown.  Remove from oven and set aside until ready to assemble pasta (*This is a step you could do up to a day in advance, storing the cooked squash pieces in the fridge until assembly time).

While squash is roasting, bring a large pot of water to a boil and prepare pasta "al dente" (or still firm to the bite) according to package directions, drain, return to the cooking pot and cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, also heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat until it foams.  Increase heat to medium. Add the sage and cook until the leaves turn crisp, about 1 ½ minutes.  Butter should be a nice nutty brown color and very fragrant (watch this very closely as the butter can go from browned to burnt pretty quickly).  Remove from heat and pour butter and sage leaves into a small bowl or measuring cup and set aside (I just kept the sage leaves whole in the sauce, but you can either remove them from the butter and cut into smaller pieces or remove them altogether, if you prefer).

Return pan to heat and add garlic pieces.  Cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, just until garlic is fragrant.  Stir in cream, nutmeg, cinnamon and chicken broth.  Bring to a simmer and whisk in sage butter.  Turn heat to low and keep sauce warm, stirring occasionally.

In a small skillet over medium high heat, bring balsamic vinegar to a boil, stirring frequently.  Allow vinegar to boil until the liquid is thickened to maple syrup consistency and is reduced by about half.  Remove from heat and set aside.

To assemble:  In the pasta pot, pour sage brown butter cream sauce over pasta.  Stir in chicken, roasted butternut squash and a handful of freshly shredded Romano or Parmesan cheese.  Warm gently over medium-low heat, if necessary.  Adjust seasonings by adding salt or pepper if needed.  Transfer to a large serving dish (or individual ones) and drizzle balsamic syrup over top.  Garnish with additional fresh sage leaves as desired.  Serve with additional shredded cheese for sprinkling.

p.s. I think this would be good with a sprinkle of chopped toasted walnuts for another added texture and fall flavor as well.  I'll have to try that sometime and let you know how it goes! : )


  1. This sounds delicious - I will have to try it some weekend. I am a friend of Elise's from school. Thank you so much for passing along some recipes for the cookbook we are creating! I'm definitely looking forward to trying many of your recipes for myself.

  2. Thanks, Lisamarie! I was excited to hear about your cookbook idea and hope it works out really well. I'm honored to have the opportunity to be included!