absorption pasta with roasted butternut squash and sage

cooking pasta using the absorption technique has been on my “to do” list for a while now. this involves cooking the pasta in much less liquid than normal, with the pasta absorbing the liquid in the same way that rice does when you make risotto. as a result the liquid is usually something chosen on the basis that it adds additional flavour to the dish.

i tried this out using chicken stock and am intrigued to experiment further. i used rigatoni which meant that i needed quite a lot of stock to cover the pasta and as a result it wasn’t all absorbed. i boiled off as much as i could but didn’t want soggy pasta so we were left with a reduced stock sauce, which was nice enough in this dish but would have been a problem with some other sauces.

the pasta was a slightly different texture – it was more delicate and almost silky. it also absorbed the flavour of the stock really well. this made the first few mouthfuls a bit of a shock as i’d expected the change in texture but not the flavour absorption – my vegetarian pasta dish was incredibly chickeny! thankfully the squash and sage were strong enough flavours to cope with this.

so, the next experiment will be with pasta which can be packed more densely in the pan, such as farfalle, orrechiette or trofie. i’d also like to try the technique which sees the raw pasta fried in olive oil until it is slightly browned as apparently this adds an extra flavour dimension. i’ll also think more carefully about the combination of stock and other flavours – i love the idea of a prawn stock within a seafood dish.

i'm sharing this dish with kait from pots and plots who is hosting this week's presto pasta nights.

absorption pasta with roasted butternut squash and sage (serves 4)

1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes

1 red onion, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 red chilli, finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves

olive oil

salt & pepper

pasta for 4 (see my notes above about which to choose)

chicken stock – i used c400ml

toasted pine nuts (optional)

parmesan to serve

heat the oven to 200c.

on a tray, mix the butternut squash, red onion, garlic, chilli and half the sage with just enough olive oil to coat them. season and roast until the squash is soft – c30minutes.

put the pasta in a saucepan and add just enough chicken stock to cover it. put the lid on the pan and bring to the boil. lower the heat and let the pasta simmer in the stock, stirring regularly and adding more stock if necessary. when the pasta is almost ready you can take the lid off and boil off any excess stock. mix the pasta with the roasted butternut squash and the remaining sage leaves. sprinkle with pine nuts and serve with parmesan.