Mr. O’s second culinary find this week was Claire Thomas’s Orecchiette Cacio e Pepe with Kale, Butternut Squash, and Burrata, which you can read about on her blog, The Kitchy Kitchen. We love her vegetable lasagna, so this seemed like a surefire recipe.
Until we got to Wegmans — yes, we occasionally truck 35 miles west to get to the happiest place on earth — and they didn’t have orecchiette. We forgave them, though, since they kindly provided incredibly cheap pre-cut, pre-cleaned kale and butternut squash, and contented ourselves with radiatore.
Other departures from the original recipe:
- I don’t care for pepper or Romano in large quantities, so I made a sauce with just a bit of freshly ground pepper — maybe two teaspoons? — about a half cup of pasta water, about a half cup of Parmesan, and olive oil.
- I didn’t remember to look for burrata, so I substituted fresh mozzarella, and more of it.
- I love Tuscan kale, but not the price, so I substituted regular kale.
- I wanted to use up some spring onions, so I left out the roasted onion.
- I shifted some of the quantities (ok, most of them)
- And I made a balsamic syrup to top the dish.
I think this turned out to be the perfect dish for the cool beginning of spring: it’s warm and hearty, but the crisp spring onion and sweet/sour balsamic syrup are refreshing.
Early Spring Radiatore with Kale, Butternut Squash, Mozzarella and Balsamic Syrup
- 1 lb radiatore (and reserve about a cup of the starchy pasta water)
- 4 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
- 6 cups chopped or torn standard kale
- 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese
- 4 spring onions
- 1/2 cup Parmesan
- 2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper, or more to taste
- olive oil
- 1 and 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar
Roast the squash (tossed in olive oil with salt and pepper) in a single layer on a baking sheet. I had enough lead time, so I roasted it at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, but you could hike up the heat to cut the cooking time.
Boil the pasta according to the directions (err on the al dente side). Toast the pepper in a pot with a wide diameter; after a couple minutes, turn to low heat, add the olive oil and kale, and cook gently. The kale should remain bright green.
Simmer the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan (or, if you’re like us and don’t have one, try a small nonstick skillet) until it’s reduced by half; it should be thick and syrupy.
Slice the green onions (white and light green parts) and cut the mozzarella into small pieces (I use kitchen scissors).
Just before the pasta’s ready, stir the Parmesan and about a half cup of pasta water into the kale and pepper mixture (reserve the other half cup of water in case you need to thin out the sauce). Drain the pasta and add to the kale, along with the squash and mozzarella. Add salt to taste and toss to combine.
Top with the warm syrup and sprinkle with the green onions. Serve immediately.