In the first days of fall around the mountains of western North Carolina, we get candy roaster squash, which are not only delicious but very versatile for different recipes, from pastas to sauces to desserts. This gem of Appalachia adds a lot to our culture here and to the people who enjoy it. In other words,it makes everybody sweeter. We like to cook the squash inthe embers and ashes of a fire. This way, we can cook it slowly and with patience before making the cavatelli pasta, which we like to call “gnocchi’s little cousin.”
Serves 4 to 6
10 tomatoes, cut in half
5 garlic cloves, smashed
1 oregano sprig
1 rosemary spring
Pinch of chile flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups olive oil
1 – 2 whole candy roaster squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and roasted
1¾ cups 00 flour, plus more for dusting
1¼ cups cornstarch
3 whole eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Semolina for dusting
Grated pecorino cheese for serving
For the tomato confit:
For the squash cavatelli:
- Make the tomato confit: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place the tomatoes in a deep pan or dutch oven. Nestle garlic, oregano, and rosemary around tomatoes. Add chile flakes, salt, and pepper and pour olive oil over everything, covering ingredients. Place pan in oven and cook for 45 minutes until tomatoes are soft and cooked through.
- Make the cavatelli: Combine squash, flour, cornstarch, eggs, and seasonings together in a large mixing bowl. Knead by hand until a smooth dough is formed. Let rest for 20 minutes.
- Lightly dust a work surface and a tray or sheet pan with semolina and turn dough onto surface. Use a rolling pinto gently flatten the dough into an even square, about ½-inch thick. Use a paring knife to cut dough into ½-inch thin strips and dust the strips with flour. Cut each strip into ½-inch pieces, or pillows, and dust with more flour. Roll each pasta pillow against the tines of a fork to create lines on each piece of cavatelli. Place finished cavatelli on the prepared tray or sheet pan.
- Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil. Carefully add cavatelli and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until all pieces float to the top of the water.
- Meanwhile, transfer tomato confit to a large sauté pan and place over medium heat. Use a slotted spoon to transfer cooked cavatelli to the tomato confit. Add ½ cup of pasta cooking liquid and continue to cook over medium heat until the sauce is reduced slightly, about 5 to 7 minutes. To serve, plate the pasta and sauce in a large serving dish and garnish with grated pecorino.
Recipe BySantiago Guzzetti, Ilda, Sylva, North Carolina