Butternut Squash Bolognese

When I was 16, I asked my mother to let me to prepare the pasta dish for Christmas dinner that we hosted for our large Italian family.  I was already dabbling in cooking and trying out recipes outside the scope of our ’regular’ meals.  She (reluctantly) agreed to let me make Ragu Bolognese over Fettuccine.  I had made this recipe only once before and was confident that my entire family would enjoy it.  I was so proud of myself that day for having contributed to the menu. 

I’ve made Bolognese ragu many times since then, but recently decided to add butternut squash.  I love cooking with butternut squash, especially in the fall when it is abundant.  It’s such a versatile ingredient.  It can be used in both savory and sweet dishes.  It hard, outer shell must be trimmed off to get to the lovely, orange flesh (or you can roast the squash in halves and scoop it out).  For this recipe it is cut into cubes and sautéed with onions, celery and pancetta.  The squash keeps its texture while adding a subtle sweetness to the ragu.

This recipe makes enough ragu for up to 2 lbs of pasta.  I prefer fettuccine but you can use any type of pasta that you prefer.  Once the pasta is cooked and drained, I toss it with 3 tablespoons of butter for an added richness to the taste.

  • ¼ Cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 Cups Butternut Squash Cubed
  • 3 celery ribs, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 oz. pancetta, diced  (you can substitute bacon)
  • 1 ½ lb ground veal, pork, beef  (total)
  • 1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup red wine
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Salt and Pepper
  • ¼ tsp thyme
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • Fresh basil
  • 1 ½ lb fettuccine
  • 3 T Butter (optional)

In a 6-8 quart heavy pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot.  Add the butternut squash, onions, celery, and garlic and cook until the vegetables are translucent but not browned – about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Add the pancetta and stir everything together.  Let cook another minute.  Add the ground veal, pork and beef.  Stir the ingredients.  Let the meat brown on high heat, stirring frequently to break the meat apart and allow it to cook all around. 

Once the meat is browned, add salt and pepper, crushed tomato, wine, heavy cream, thyme, oregano and basil.  Bring just to a boil and then reduce the heat to low.  Allow it to simmer, stirring occasionally, for approx. 1 hour.  The ragu will thicken as it cooks.

Cook the pasta according to packaged directions.  Once it is done, drain it and place it in a serving bowl.  Toss it with 3 tablespoons of butter (optional).  Ladle the ragu over the top, toss, and enjoy.

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