The fall harvest gets me thinking about sweaters, scarves and the flavours which mark the season. For me, sage is one of the cornerstone herbs I reach for as the weather begins to cool.
Sage has been an herb celebrated in every corner of the planet in various dynasties and religions throughout history.
Originating in the Mediterranean, the ancient Romans leaned heavily on the herb as a digestive aid. It was believed sage could help humans break down fatty foods in their bellies. Also, in that time the Romans also made tea from sage to ease a sore throat. In addition, the Egyptians, the French under Charlemagne and in China, sage was used in a similar way as the Romans did.
The sage plant was looked at as both an ingredient for cooking and as a medicinal supplement. The natural astringency found within the plant through research in modern science confirms that sage can indeed alleviate some of the raw sensations in a sore throat; our gastronomic history has proven it a delicious ingredient that is perfect for the autumn.
Sage does well as seasoning for stuffing, but a fun use of sage is to add some chopped up sage into some butter destined for your mashed potatoes. Over medium heat fry up the sage and allow the butter to take on a hazelnut-brown colour. Use this sage brown butter to change up you standard mashed potatoes. Sage also finds a great pairing with goat’s cheese or blue cheese. The piquancy of the cheese works well with the pine-like notes found in this herb.
It’s interesting, that when we reach for sage, it’s quite often relegated to special holiday meals. It is easy however, to incorporate the festiveness that sage inherently possesses into easy weekday meals. This pasta dish comes together easily in 30 minutes.
I used penne pasta here, but you can use any pasta you like. I wouldn’t suggest freezing this dish as it contains cream, but if you want, you can add in some cooked cubed chicken or top with crumbled bacon.
Creamy Butternut Squash and Sage Penne
Created by: Chef Ilona Daniel
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 Tbsp fresh sage, chopped
- 20 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) butternut squash cubes
- ¾ cup low sodium chicken stock/vegetable stock or water in a pinch
- 4 ounces cream cheese or 1 package Boursin cheese
- 3/4 cup cream
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more to top
- 1 pound pasta of choice, cooked
In a large pan enough to accommodate the pasta, melt the butter. Add onions and begin to sautee the onions over medium-high heat until the onions become soft without browning. Add the garlic and fresh sage into the pan and continue to sautee for 2 additional minutes.
Add butternut squash and stock into the pan and cover. Cook mixture covered over medium heat for 10 minutes or until squash is soft. Once squash is tender, remove the pan from the heat and puree the mixture using a hand blender. Stir in cream and cream cheese and puree again with hand blender until cheese and cream are combined.
Stir pasta into the sauce. If needed, add a small amount of boiling water to get the sauce and pasta to your desired consistency. I usually put a kettle just before I start pureeing the squash so it will be ready when I need it.
To finish, garnish the pasta with parmesan cheese or fresh herbs as desired.
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