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Pasta with Fall Vegetables and Pesto

Yield: 8 generous servings

  • 1 small butternut squash, about 1 lb.
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 2 medium yellow summer squash
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil and a big pat of butter
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup pesto (see below)
  • 3/4 lb. freshly cooked, al dente pasta such as penne
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Reggiano parmesan cheese for garnish

As you work, keep each vegetable separated, and try to cut all of them to about the same size pieces, 1/2 inch dice.

Cut the butternut squash in half crosswise. Stand the halves on the cut side, and proceed to pare off the peel with a chef’s knife. Remove the seeds. Cube the squash.

Halve, peel and cut the red onion. Wash, stem, seed and dice the pepper, and wash, stem and cut the summer squashes into cubes.

Have the pesto made and at hand, and grate the extra cheese for garnish and put aside in a small bowl. Assemble all the ingredients near the stove.

Put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta before you start cooking the sauce. The sauce will take about 10-12 minutes to make, so time your pasta accordingly, putting it in so that it is done at the same time, about, as the sauce.

Place a large sauté pan on the stove, and warm the oil and butter. Add the red onion pieces, and cook, stirring over high heat, for about 2 minutes until they take on a bit of color and soften. Add the butternut squash, Cook and stir for 2 minutes, until the cubes are hot and starting to cook. Add a teaspoon salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Add the red pepper pieces, and again, stir and cook for 2 minutes. Add the summer squashes, and 1/2 cup water. Turn the heat to medium-high, and cook, uncovered and undisturbed until the water has just evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir in the pesto, taste and adjust seasoning, and thin slightly with a half-cup of the pasta water. Scoop the al dente pasta from its pot into the sauce, and cook together for just a minute. Serve, with grated cheese on top.


Pesto is a wonderful fresh sauce that's easy to make. When basil is in season, make an extra batch--without the cheese--and freeze in an ice cube tray, then remove to a zip bag, for a mid-winter treat. (Add cheese after thawing.)

Yield: about 3/4 cup

  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2-3 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, washed and patted dry
  • 1-2 fresh sage leaves (optional)
  • 2 Tbs. pine nuts, either raw or toasted*
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1 oz. Romano cheese, grated, (about 2 Tbs.) or use more Parmesan

Make the pesto in a food processor or blender, or in a mortar and pestle the traditional way. Here’s how to do it traditionally: Start by placing the garlic and salt into the mortar, and working them together with the pestle until the garlic becomes a paste. Add the basil a small amount at a time, and work with the pestle until it too is ground. Add the sage and do the same, if you are using it. Add the nuts, and gently smash them up—a little bit of texture is good so avoid turning them completely into a paste. Drizzle in the olive oil, working it into the mixture with the pestle. Add the cheese(s), and it’s ready to use.

To make in the food processor, combine the garlic, salt, basil sage leaves, pulse on/off to chop. Add the nuts and pulse a few more times, then with the machine on, add the oil fairly quickly. Stir in the cheese after removing the pesto from the food processor. If you have only a blender, do the same thing—but you will need to stop and scrape down the sides frequently.

*toast pine nuts in a dry frying pan over medium heat, until lightly colored.