Thursday, September 2, 2010

A delicious pasta, by way of a good friend

My friend Stacie and her husband used to live in the flat upstairs. In many ways, it was an ideal arrangement: for one thing, they own the building, and so not only were they able to rent to friends, we had our landlords nearby in case of the inevitable homestead crisis.

Second, and more importantly, we got to enjoy that kind of perfect friendship that is easiest when you live in a city, in close quarters. We could, on a whim, walk down to Cole Street and grab sushi; share the overflow from baking projects; or have an impromptu glass of wine on a weeknight. Plus, Stacie and I have known each other since we were born. Our dads were friends since they themselves were young, so we grew up together. It was like having family around.

Sometimes I would encounter her in the evenings, around 9 or 10, on the back stairs as I made my way out to the recycling bin or to get the last of the laundry. Usually I would have just put away a sizeable dinner, a glass or two of wine, and was headed for bed after hoisting myself weakly off the couch.

"What are you up to?" I'd say, knowing the answer would make me feel more like a lump than ever.

"Oh, just working on a few projects," she'd reply casually. Painting something for her little dollhouse, or sewing a purse out of cool fabric scraps that I would eventually covet.

It's doesn't seem fair that some people get piles of talent on top of mountains of motivation, does it?

A couple of years ago, Stacie and her husband moved to a bigger house, on account of having a kid and needing more space. I like to think that this decision was difficult for them, that they knew they would miss our perfect, symbiotic living arrangement, two couples connected by a rickety staircase and almost four decades of friendship.

I'm pretty certain this isn't true, though, and I can't blame them. They found a great place not too far from here, and a few weeks ago, they threw a wonderful party. In addition to a magazine-worthy array of roast chicken sandwiches, risotto, and tomato salad, there was a heaping bowl of gorgeous creamy pasta, full of butternut squash and flecked with basil, of which I proceeded to eat many, many helpings.

As I threw down on my second or third bowl, it occurred to me that this recipe seemed familiar, although I was sure I'd never eaten it before. I then realized I'd come across it a few months earlier on Stacie's blog that she writes with her friend Simran.  (And in case you're wondering, yes, Stacie is responsible for  the groovy drawings on the site.)

She'd written this post about a delightful penne with roasted butternut squash and creamy goat cheese, courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis. The recipe floated around in my brain for awhile, but like so many, got lost in the shuffle.

I finally got around to making it this week. And I am happy to say, it did not disappoint.

I'm a little bothered that I didn't think of this combination myself, because it's really fantastic. The squash and onions get roasty and sweet; the goat cheese tangy; the walnuts crunchy; the basil bright and licoricey.

So, thanks, Stace, for doing not only doing a test-run of this recipe, but letting me sample it first. I suppose I should thank Giada, too. In any case, I highly recommend the pasta. It takes a little time for the squash to roast, but otherwise is extremely simple. I suggest you give it a go, and invite a good friend over to enjoy it together.


  1. Butternut squash and goat cheese are marvelous together! I love them on pizza or in a gratin, too. When basil season ends, they're still good with rosemary, thyme, or sage. Now I'm excited for winter squash!

  2. Mmm, this looks good. Have made a similar yummy Ina risotto recipe so will have to try this one.
    Thanks for the link to your friend's/neighbor's blog. Love the little drawings! Am going to try their tandoori chicken recipe. Have been experimenting with Indian food lately and just figured homemade tandoori was out of the question. - Pete

  3. stacie sounds like a good bud who complements your personality well! speaking of complementary pairings, walnuts and goat cheese = YES. my compliments to the chef. :)

  4. I enjoyed reading Stacie's blog, Samantha. How lovely to have such lovely old friends nearby. Even if their not right upstairs now.
    This is one of Giada's recipes I haven't tried. Butternut squash means fall to me, so I'm going to give this one a try...perhaps even Ina Garten's butternut squash salad!

  5. Thanks for the intro to Stacie's blog, it's gorgeous. I often make a roasted butternut and pasta thingy, but never thought to use goat's cheese with it. Definitely must try.

    Yay for good friends too, have a great weekend.

  6. camille: yes, on pizza, that sounds perfect And you're right, the combo can take lots of herbs. And we know goat cheese goes with just about everything...

    Pete: glad you checked out Stacie's blog--it's actually sort of up your alley with the food/art perspective.

    grace: yep, I'm lucky to have a good friend who also knows how to cook!

    barbara: glad you checked it out! And now I'll need to check out Ina's salad--that actually sounds familiar to me, maybe I caught that show.

    shaz: You have a great weekend too!!

  7. That sounds so lovely to have a great friend a few steps away. Sometimes where I live I can feel kind of isolated.
    That looks like a delicious pasta. I'd like to try something like that with butter nut squash.
    Have a wonderful weekend!
    *kisses* HH

  8. I've never had a butternut squash pasta before, but since I love any form of squash/pumpkin, I know I would love this recipe! I'm going to save it for a too cold for autumn day.

  9. HH: I guess I didn't realize you live in the country?!

    Jessica: YOu might enjoy this--I hope you try it!

  10. What a sweet ode to friendship, both in prose and in the form of a wonderful, tasty pasta dish.

  11. I have all of those items in my CSA delivery this week and I'm making this tomorrow. Thanks so much for the inspiration.

  12. CJ: Thank you!

    agrigirl: Let me know how you like it!

  13. I didn't realize butternut squash was in season. I love using it, but always think of it as a fall ingredient. But I guess with our weather, it's like fall already. (You should also write a sitcom about the years you and your friend lived together. I bet there were a lot of laughs!)

  14. Life is wonderful when you enjoy your friends. share good meals, good laughs, its perfect,

    The pasta dish looks amazing-wow.

  15. Ben: You are so right...I SHOULD write a sitcom. The situation/setting is perfect for it! Two Hapa girls living with their husbands in SF, cooking up a storm...

    Velva: I agree. Thank you!

  16. That was a pretty amazing party...nice to have met you there..."Working on a project" sounds just like Stacie :)

  17. What a nice post from such a dear friend. Sniff sniff -- I do miss the old place and having you guys just downstairs. Glad you liked the pasta as much as we did. Here's to friendship.... and pasta!

  18. HD, I enjoyed Stace's blog. Thanks for sharing.
    The recipe sounds wonderful. I love butternut squash. If I ever get my kitchen furnishede I'll give it a try. Meanwhile, want dinner guests?

  19. A Little Yumminess: Nice to meet you too!

    Stacie: Come visit the old homestead any time... :)

    Pam: You are always welcome!