’Tis the Season for … Pasta & Gnocchi with Mushroom & Bacon Ragù

Winter is a great time for pasta. So much so that I seem to find a lovely bowl of warm and wonderful spaghetti, gnocchi or tortellini on my table at least a few times a week. I know the anti-carb lobby does not approve but there is something ever-so-cozy about pasta. Admit it, there’s nothing better on a cold winter night. Damp and rainy cold or polar vortex cold, it doesn’t matter – pasta is the answer.

Of course, you’ll never get bored because the variety of shapes and sizes is endless. It’s not just the hundreds of possible choices to throw in the boiling pot. The list of sauces goes on forever as well. Why – I bet you could enjoy a different dish every night for year without a single repeat.

When it comes to homemade pasta, I find that one thing leads to another. A batch of ravioli inspires a nest of tagliatelle. The same goes for gnocchi. I’ve no sooner served up a hearty platter of potato gnocchi that my brain starts to spin with new recipes. Spinach, butternut squash or what about roasted beet gnocchi? When was the last time you had a purple dinner?

Anyway, pillowy-soft gnocchi, tantalizing tortellini or a simply delicious fettucine, they all need a fabulous sauce. As kids, the only one to grace our table was a hearty Bolognese. However, we were in no way fancy enough to call it that. To us, it was simply Spaghetti Sauce. And by the way, my mother, who really never liked to cook, simmered up a mean Bolognese.

Eventually, I learned there was more to Italian cooking then a great red sauce. Given my penchant for pasta during the winter months, that’s a good thing, a very good thing. After a long day, if you have an urgent need for a cozy meal, consider pasta and any of the following for a quick and easy sauce:

  • Leftover roasted vegetables topped with browned butter and toasted hazelnuts are a wonderful combination – try butternut squash or cauliflower
  • For an early taste of spring, sauté asparagus, snow peas and spinach and drizzle with fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil
  • Cacio e Pepe – made with butter, cracked pepper and cheese – it’s the minimalist’s answer to Mac & Cheese
  • Sauté your favorite spicy sausage with broccoli rabe and garlic and finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon
  • Simmer garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes in olive oil, wine and lemon and add clams
  • Sauté some onion with lots of garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes, add crushed tomatoes and simmer before adding shrimp, olives and a few capers
  • Whirl up a batch of bright green pesto with basil or your favorite herbs plus a sprinkle of cheese and nuts
  • Chop up a green sauce of spinach, herbs, olives and capers – finish with a touch of lemon and garlic
  • Anything with cream including just cream and cheese
  • Anything with bacon

The possibilities are endless. Bon appétit!

Gnocchi with Mushroom & Bacon Ragù
Last week’s column featured homemade Cheesy Potato Gnocchi. For a cozy supper, toss the gnocchi in an easy sauce of bacon and mushrooms. Enjoy!
Serves 6

1 1/2 pounds gnocchi,* homemade or store bought
6 ounces thick cut bacon, chopped
Olive oil
1 1/2 pounds whole mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cognac
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/4-1/2 cup half & half (optional)
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

If making homemade gnocchi, prepare the gnocchi.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Lightly coat a skillet with olive oil and place over medium heat. Add the bacon and, stirring occasionally, cook until the bacon just starts to brown. Add the mushrooms and onion, sprinkle with rosemary and thyme, season with salt and pepper and sauté for 5-8 minutes. When the mushrooms start to brown, add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes more.

Add the wine, stir in the mustard and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cognac. Return the skillet to the stove, stir and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Add the broth and simmer until reduced by half. Reduce the heat to very low to keep warm.

Cook the gnocchi according to directions.

Use a spider or slotted spoon to add the gnocchi to the mushrooms and gently toss to combine. If the mixture seems dry, add the half & half or a little pasta water and toss again. Cover and cook on medium heat for 1 minute.

Transfer the gnocchi to shallow bowls and serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

* if you don’t have homemade gnocchi in the house, the ragù will be just as delicious with tortellini or fettuccine.

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One Year Ago – Pa Jun – Savory Korean Pancakes
Two Years Ago – Spaghetti with Mushrooms & Bacon
Three Years Ago – Oven Braised Chicken with Mushrooms, Onions & Garlic
Four Years Ago – Capellini with Lobster & Caviar
Five Years Ago – Sour Cream Cupcakes with White Chocolate-Cream Cheese Frosting
Six Years Ago – White Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry Coulis & Fresh Raspberries
Seven Years Ago – Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets & Lentils
Eight Years Ago – Chicken Niçoise
Nine Years Ago – Greek Pizza
Ten Years Ago – Triple Threat Brownies

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What are your favorite dishes to cook up on a cold winter day? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019

Inspiration … Pasta & Noodles

Earlier this week I cooked up a refreshing Noodle Salad with lots of veggies and full of Asian flavors. Soon after, I discovered Alice May Brock’s take on all things noodle and pasta.
Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good.

Alice May Brock, artist and owner of Alice’s Restaurant

What are your favorite flavors or ways to cook pasta? Or should I say noodles? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.  

Want more? Click here for lots more to read, see & cook! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2012

In the Kitchen – Cooking Pasta

Linguine? Angel hair? Fusili or Orzo? Trying to decide which pasta to pair with your sauce? Thin, delicate pastas, like angel hair, are best with light, thin sauces. Thicker pasta, like fettuccine or linguine, is great with heavier sauces. Short pastas with holes or ridges like rigatoni or fusili are great for chunky sauces. Short or long, thicker, sturdy pasta  like penne and lasagna are best for baked pasta dishes. Small pasta like orzo or ditalini are perfect for soups.

Dried pasta is made of little more than semolina flour, water, and salt. With its long shelf life, it’s a great staple to keep on hand. Dried pasta has a firm texture and holds up to hearty sauces. Imported Italian pasta is easy to find and the flavor and consistency will take you back to that great little trattoria you enjoyed on your last Italian holiday (or weekend in little Italy). Fresh pasta cooks very quickly, has a delicate texture and is best with lighter sauces.

How much? When serving pasta as a main course, my rule of thumb is two ounces of dried pasta per person and a little less if I’m serving a hearty appetizer or lots of side dishes. If the pasta is an appetizer or side dish, I plan on no more than one ounce per person.

With fresh pasta, about three ounces will satisfy most people. If filled pasta, like tortelloni or ravioli, is on your menu, three and a half to four ounces per serving should do it. Of course, all of these measures go out the window if your dinner guests include a bunch of starving marathoners, teenagers or college students!

Avoid overcooking pasta. Italians enjoy their pasta al dente. Translated, to the tooth or to the bite, pasta should be firm but not hard. You can check to see if the pasta is ready by tasting it. The pasta should be a bit chewy but not crunchy. You can always entertain your guests and your kids by throwing spaghetti at the refrigerator. If it sticks it’s done, but please note, it will also stick if it is overcooked!

If you’re serving pasta with a sauce, drain and throw it back into the pot. Toss with enough sauce to coat but not drown the pasta, cover and cook over very low heat for one minute to absorb the sauce.

If you are serving pasta tossed with sautéed or roasted vegetables and/or chicken, meat or seafood, make sure you grab a cup of pasta water before you drain the pasta. Drain the pasta and throw it into the skillet with the sauce. If the pasta seems a dry, add pasta water a little bit at a time until the sauce reaches the right consistency and simmer on low for one minute to combine the flavors.

Enjoy cooking with pasta and buon appetito!

More Tips, Tricks & Tools
Just a few of my favorite pasta recipes

What’s your favorite pasta? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below. I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Want more? Click here for lots more to read, see & cook! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2012

In the Kitchen – Cooking Perfect Pasta

A few tips …

Cook pasta in a large pot with lots of salted water. Pasta needs lots of water and room to keep it from sticking and clumping together. Make sure the water is at a full, rigorous boil before adding the pasta. Keep the heat on high so it returns to a boil quickly. Give the pasta a stir or two or three while it cooks.

Don’t forget the salt. It adds flavor and your pasta dish will be dull and flat without it. Plan about 1 tablespoon of salt per quart of water.

With one special exception , never add olive oil to the cooking water. Olive oil will coat the pasta and prevent the sauce from sticking. In addition, never rinse the pasta or you’ll wash away the starch which helps the sauce stick.
(Linguine with Roasted Asparagus & Walnuts)

Pasta should be cooked until it is al dente… and not a minute more! Al dente is Italian for to the tooth. The pasta should offer a little resistance but not crunch when you bite into it.

Before draining the pasta, reserve some of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta, return it to the pot and add enough sauce to coat. If the pasta seems dry, add a bit more sauce or a little pasta water. Allow the pasta and sauce to combine by cooking on very low heat, covered, for about a minute.

Enjoy and buon appetito!

More Tips, Tricks & Tools

What’s your favorite pasta dish? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below. I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Want more? Click here for lots more to read, see & cook! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2012

Spring Skiing & Linguine with Sundried Tomato Pesto & Roasted Eggplant

In other parts of the country and around the world, there is a certain rhythm to the seasons. Spring, summer, fall and winter more or less come and go at three month intervals. In New England, especially northern New England, we certainly have four distinct seasons but they pay little attention to dates on a calendar. Here in New Hampshire, the rhythm and cycle is more than a little lopsided.

Winter is long, about six months long. It comes early and short changes autumn on the front end. From one minute to the next we move from fall into “I can’t believe it’s winter already”. Children in northern New England buy extra large Halloween costumes. They buy these oversized disguises not because they are particularly plump or big for their age but because they need to wear them over their snowsuits. We rarely worry about a white Christmas, most years we are already into “the dead of winter” (or if you prefer “winter in earnest”) before Thanksgiving. When spring officially rolls around in mid-March, we’re right in the middle of “you’ve got to be kidding, it’s still winter”.

Since I am a skier, I don’t feel any particular need to rush into spring. After all spring in New Hampshire starts with a lot of mud and ends with vicious, man-eating black flies. Even though spring is weeks away, March skiing is commonly known as spring skiing. Spring skiing is my reward for putting up with those dark cold days in December. It is payback for enduring those blistering cold days in January and compensation for surviving those blustery cold days in February.

In “the dead of winter”, clouds are cause for celebration and I check multiple weather reports to find out how much lovely white snow is predicted. Whether it ends up as flurries or a blizzard, I make frequent trips outside with my yardstick (I am an optimist) to check the storm’s progress. Once the calendar page is turned to March, clouds are more foreboding. I still check multiple weather reports but it is with the optimistic hope of just one more glorious snowfall. Or please, if it must rain, let it be a short-lived drizzle. The worst case is a heartless downpour which washes away all the fun. Since I am more or less tired of shoveling, lots of dry sunny days and cold and clear nights would suit me just fine. It’s good for the maple sugar harvest as well.

Spring skiing is wonderful because you can enjoy the slopes without looking like the Michelin man’s more colorful cousin or a bank robber. It is great to pare down to a layer or two and (with sunblock!) turn your face to the sun. The truly brave or perhaps foolhardy ski in shorts. Goggles are left at home in favor of sunglasses. Baseball caps replace helmets. I’m feeling particularly colorful these days in my new Sherpa cap, a welcomed birthday gift. While it is cheerful, it doesn’t really cover my ears and so would never do in “the dead of winter”.

Everyone on the mountain is lighter and brighter and the smiles are dazzling. It may be selfish. It may seem unfair but I am hoping that the ground stays covered for at least a few more weeks. I offer a little shrug and my half-hearted apologies to anyone anxious for spring. I don’t think I’m asking for much. Fool that I am; I’d just like to ski until the first of April!

Bon appétit!   

Linguine with Sundried Tomato Pesto & Roasted Eggplant

Whether you spend the day on the slopes or not, this pasta dish will bring a taste of sunshine and Sicily to your table. Enjoy!

Serve 6

4-6 oil-packed sundried tomato halves, drained
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce or to taste
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
1 medium eggplant, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 large red onion, chopped
12 ounces linguine
1/4 cup large Sicilian or Greek olives (or a mix), pitted and chopped
2 tablespoons capers, drained
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano or mint
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, grated

  1. Make the Sundried Tomato Pesto: Combine the sundried tomatoes, garlic, anchovy paste, pepper sauce, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small food processor or blender. Process to combine and form a rough paste. Add 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, process until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Place the eggplant and onion on non-stick baking sheet, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Roast, stirring 2-3 times, for about 30 minutes or until lightly browned.
  4. While the vegetables are roasting, cook the pasta according to package directions.
  5. Drain the pasta, reserving a little pasta water.  Return the pasta to the pot; add enough sundried tomato pesto to lightly coat. Add the eggplant, olives and capers; toss to combine. If the mixture seems dry, add a little pasta water.  Sprinkle with oregano and parsley and toss to combine. Sprinkle with pine nuts and grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese and serve.

I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Leave a Comment below. I’d be delighted to add you to my growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe  just scroll back up and click on the Sign Me Up button.

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One Year Ago – Fondue

Feel free to look around my website, you can learn about my new philanthropic project Eat Well – Do Good, link to magazine articles and more on at www.susannye.com. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010

January – The Coldest Month & Lasagna

After almost seventeen years in Switzerland and another three on the west coast, I drove 3,000 miles across the country to New Hampshire in late April 2003. It was snowing as I slipped and slid into the State, exhausted but happy to be home. From the time I was ten, New Hampshire had always been my home-away-from-home. It was a place filled with happy memories of summer and ski vacations.

I decided to take some time to get my bearings. I did a little consulting and a lot of kayaking and skiing. I reconnected with family and friends, cooked a lot and became famous for, among other things, an incredibly rich and decadent chocolate birthday cake. I rediscovered the seasons as only New England has them.

Most if not all of the daffodils and tulips were wilted and gone when I pulled out of Seattle on Easter weekend. Four or five days later when I arrived in New Hampshire, the ground was covered with snow. Eventually spring came, bringing frost heaves, mud and black flies, as well as my favorite daffodils, tulips and lilacs. Spring turned to summer, the black flies disappeared and Pleasant Lake was as magical as ever. Fall was brilliant; the Technicolor spectacle was as good if not better than I remembered.

And then winter came.  I knew that New Hampshire winters were cold but I had forgotten how cold. I tried to adapt. I began dressing-like-an-onion in layers of long underwear, flannel and wool. To answer the question that I’m sure is on your lips … no it is not this cold in Switzerland. Winter temperatures hover between 30 and 40 degrees in Geneva. It doesn’t snow a whole lot; it’s mostly grey and rainy. Yes, there is lots and lots of glorious snow in the Alps but it rarely turns as bitterly cold as a typical January day in northern New England.

From a young age, I was taught to ignore the cold and get my money’s worth out of my season ski pass. Our family skied in arctic temperatures, gale winds and blizzards. When I lived in Switzerland I was hard pressed to find anyone to join me on bitter cold or stormy days. Frigid days were for snuggling up by the fire with a good book. It was wonderful!

Returning to New England triggered something. It might have been old guilt or just a return to old habits. The far-away voice of my father rattled around in my head, telling me to get out on the slopes! And so, in early January of my first winter back I headed for the mountain on a colder than cold morning.

No surprise, the mountain was mostly deserted on that frigid Friday. By the time my chairlift reached the top, I was a block of ice. Given the temperature and the gale force winds, I didn’t hang around to admire the view. I immediately started down the trail. About half way down I came to an abrupt stop. No, I didn’t need to rest or catch my breath. The wind was blowing so hard up the side of the hill that it stopped me dead in my tracks. I froze through a few more runs and then reminded myself that my Dad was playing golf in sunny Florida and rushed home to a hot shower and warm fire.

Perhaps it’s the wisdom of age or a fear of frostbite but since that day I have become something of a fair-weather skier. When the wind is howling and the temperature plummets below zero, I leave the mountain to the true die-hards. And just in case my Dad checks up on me, I still figure I took about 800 runs last year at about 50 cents apiece!

Bon appétit!

Four Cheese Lasagna Bolognese with Spinach

Lasagna is great when you have a houseful of hungry skiers. This classic comfort food is perfect after a cold day on the slopes. Enjoy!
Serves 12 or more

About 6 cups of Bolognese sauce (recipe follows)
1 1/2 cups Béchamel sauce (recipe follows)
15 ounces ricotta cheese
12 ounces shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese
4 ounces grated Parmesan
4 ounces grated Pecorino Romano
1 pound frozen leaf spinach, thawed and drained
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 8 ounces lasagna noodles –12 noodles, enough for 4 layers

Make the Bolognese and Béchamel sauces and set aside.

Combine the mozzarella, Parmesan and Romano cheeses and toss.

Cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions. (Noodles sticking together? Check out my tip to keep lasagna noodles from sticking.

Spread 1- 2 cups of Bolognese sauce in the bottom of a large, deep ceramic or glass baking pan (about 13 by 10 by 3-inches). Arrange 3 lasagna noodles on top of the sauce. Top the noodles with 1/3 of the ricotta, 1/3 of the spinach and 1-2 cups of Bolognese sauce.  Sprinkle with 1/4 of the cheese mixture.  Repeat with a second and third layer of noodles-ricotta-spinach-Bolognese sauce- cheeses.

Arrange remaining noodles on top and spread with Béchamel sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining cheeses.  Tightly cover the baking dish with foil. You can store in the refrigerator for several hours or bake immediately.

When you are ready to bake the lasagna, position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the lasagna for 45-60 minutes, if the lasagna is cold from the refrigerator it will take longer.  Remove foil, continue baking uncovered until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden, about15 minutes longer. Let the lasagna stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Classic Bolognese Sauce
Makes about 4 quarts, for at least 2 or 3 lasagnas, you can freeze the extra sauce.

9 cups (3 cans – 28 ounces each) crushed tomatoes
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, grated
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs
Pinch crushed red pepper (optional)
1 cup dry red wine
1 bay leaf
1/2 pound Italian sausage; hot, sweet or a mix, casings removed
1/2 pound ground beef
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive Oil

Heat a heavy casserole over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and ground beef to the pot, breaking up the meat into bite-size pieces, cook until brown about 5 minutes.

Remove from the pan. Drain the fat and reserve.

Add a little olive oil in the pot and heat over medium high heat. Add the onion, carrot, pepper and garlic, sprinkle with Italian herbs, red pepper, salt and pepper. Sauté until vegetables are tender.

Return the meat to the pot. Add the crushed tomatoes, wine and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir in the chopped basil.

Béchamel Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
Pinch of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy small saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and herbs; cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sauce thickens, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the nutmeg. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

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One Year Ago – Curried Chicken and Lentil Soup

What’s your favorite cold weather dishes? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below. I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Feel free to visit my photoblog, Susan Nye 365 or my cleverly named other blog, Susan Nye’s Other Blog, or website www.susannye.com. You can find more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more. I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010

The Thanksgiving Feast & Penne Gratin with Leftover Turkey

When we were really little, my grandmothers hosted Thanksgiving, trading off every other year. Eventually a broken hip and other ailments got the best of them. For a year or two they took us all out to a noisy, over-crowded restaurant. It didn’t take long for my mother to declare that SHE would now be cooking Thanksgiving dinner. No one argued.

Since my grandparents didn’t like to drive after dark, the feast was mandated to start at the stroke of one. To meet this deadline, my parents were up and in the kitchen early, stuffing the turkey before the dawn. Snuggled under the covers, I could hear them having what could have been misconstrued as an argument.  Within the family, we considered it to be nothing more than an enthusiastic discussion.

And what critical question could possibly merit so much predawn attention? Without fail, year in and year out, they engaged in an intensive debate on how long to cook the bird. In those days, my dad spent almost zero time in the kitchen but was surprisingly opinionated on this matter. Eventually they came to some kind of agreement, gave the turkey a kiss and pushed him into the oven.

Hours later the topic was revisited when they poked and prodded and opined if the bird was done. This second debate was even more interesting because at least one of my two grandmothers was more than apt, ready and able to pipe in with an opinion.

Eventually some kind of consensus was reached. Beautiful and golden brown, Tom Turkey was pulled from the oven. At that point, the activity in the already busy kitchen was turned up a notch.  After everyone had given the requisite oooh or awww, my dad went to work carving the bird. My mother and grandmothers bustled around at top speed getting everything else ready and on the table.  In short order, the sideboard groaned under the weight of the huge turkey and all the fixin’s.

Ours was a traditional New England feast and the menu remained more or less unchanged for decades. As in 1621, the vegetables were hardy and local. A salad never graced our Thanksgiving Day table but the spread always included a huge mound of mashed potatoes, a big pot of butternut squash and a bubbling casserole of creamed onions. Lots of gravy, homemade cranberry sauce, two kinds of stuffing and Nana Nye’s Cape Cod turnip completed the meal. Nana insisted and the rest of the adults seemed to agree that Cape Cod turnip was something special. I thought it tasted like bitter baby food. But then again I thought the squash tasted like bland, slightly sweet baby food. The meal ended with a trio of pies, apple, pumpkin and pecan, served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. No one ever felt the need for change; it just seemed right to have the same menu year in and year out.

My mother happily retired as Thanksgiving’s head cook several years ago. I now have that honor. Mom is more than delighted to peel a few potatoes but otherwise stay out of the fray. In spite of a few grumbles, I have made a change or two to the menu. (Blame it on all those years I lived in Europe!) The meal is a little simpler now. We make do with one stuffing instead of two. The squash is no longer boiled and mashed but roasted for soup. I’ve switched out the onions and turnip for broccoli and a salad. My sister-in-law Jennifer and her three girls bake beautiful apple and pumpkin pies. And my dad. Some things never change. He leads the annual Thanksgiving Day debate on how long to cook the bird.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends. Enjoy!

Bon appétit!

 Roasted Butternut Squash
Roasting squash is a delicious alternative to the boiled and mashed dish of my childhood. It is great on Turkey Day and wonderful in leftovers so make a little extra. Enjoy!
Serves 6-8 with leftovers

2 large butternut squash (about 2 pounds each), peeled, seeded and cut into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place squash in large roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, sprinkle with herbs, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast for about 15 minutes. Add the onions, toss to combine and continue roasting, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly browned about 45 minutes total.

Cheesy Gratin with Thanksgiving Leftovers
Use the leftover squash in salads, soups or baked in a cheesy gratin.Serves 6-8

12-16 ounces dried penne pasta
1 pound baby spinach
About 2 cups leftover turkey cut into bite-sized pieces*
About 2 cups leftover roasted butternut squash
4 ounces grated cheddar cheese
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter plus more to butter the baking dish
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Pinch nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Butter a large baking dish.

Cook the pasta according to package directions, less 1 minute.  Drain and return the pasta to the pot. Combine the spinach with the hot pasta; let the spinach wilt. Add the turkey and squash and combine.

Heat the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour, herbs, paprika and nutmeg and whisk for 30 seconds. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Add about 2/3 of the cheddar and Parmesan cheeses and cook over low heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the sauce to the pasta, toss to combine and transfer to the baking dish. Sprinkle the top with remaining cheeses. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until the gratin is piping hot and golden brown.

* You don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to make this dish. You can substitute the turkey with chicken or chicken or turkey sausage. Then again, a vegetarian gratin is also yummy.

Feel free to make a comment; I’d love to hear from you. Just click on COMMENTS below.

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© Susan W. Nye, 2009