Saturday, November 26, 2011

Smoked Ham and Butternut Squash Spaghetti – Short on Daylight, Long on Flavor

I never film at night, since I don’t like the look of the video when I use artificial lights. Sure, I could actually learn how to use a real lighting kit, but it’s easier for my simple brain to just film during the day.

However, once in a great while, I’ll starting making something, like this smoked ham and butternut squash spaghetti, that looks like it’s going to be so good that I don’t care about lighting quality, and film it anyway.

Other than this less-than-subtle warning about the lighting quality, there’s not a lot to say about this simple and very delicious winter pasta. It will work with literally any type of ham or smoked sausage; and as I mention in the video, bacon would also shine.

Despite the rich and decadent mascarpone, the sauce is actually pretty light when you consider much of the sauce is really just chicken broth and squash. By the way, I didn’t add it, but I think a squeeze of fresh lemon juice at the end would have been a great idea. I hope you give this hearty pasta a try soon. Enjoy!

14 oz package dry spaghetti
2 tbsp olive oil
4 oz thinly slice smoked ham
3-4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
red chili flakes to taste
1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken broth, or as needed
3 cups diced butternut squash
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1-2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Know Your Cheese

As most of your know, I LOVE cheese, and two of the most commonly used varieties in my kitchen are fresh mozzarella, and mascarpone. In addition to this recipe, I’ve used mascarpone in several recent videos, and received numerous inquires as to which brand I used.

My usual go-to brand is Galbani, so I was thrilled when Michele and I were recently invited to an event hosted by Lactalis Foodservice. Along with Galbani, Lactalis owns many of markets’ top cheese brands, such as President, Sorrento, and Precious, just to name a few.

This Chef’s Table event was held at Farina, San Francisco, and not only did we enjoy a very nice meal, but we got to talk directly to the people making the cheese. One reason I love shopping at Farmers Markets is that you get to meet the people producing the food you’re about to cook, but it’s not often you get the same experience for a product you buy at the supermarket.

Here are a few highlights from the evening.

Pardon the poor quality photo, but I just had to show this Foccacia di Recco, featuring Galbani’s Bel Paese. It’s sort of like a stuffed pizza, which uses a very basic, unleavened bread dough that’s rolled, spun, and stretched very thin, before being stuffed with the creamy cheese. It’s baked in a very hot oven, where it puffs up, and gets crispy on the outside, while the inside stays soft and cheesy. It was awesome, and something I must figure out how to make!
Chef at Farina spinning the dough for the Foccacia di Recco. By the way, the videographer seen here is my friend Vincent McConeghy, a fellow western New Yorker, and author of the novel, Gastro Detective.

This was my favorite course of the night. A golden and red beet timbale with Istara Petit Basque and shaved black truffles. What glorious combination of flavors!

I want to thank Lactalis Foodservice for hosting such a fun evening, and the chefs at Farina for taking such good care of us! For those of you that requested more info about the mascarpone cheese, you can check out the official website here. Grazie!


Monica said...

Unfortunately we do not have a quality farmers market and rely for better quality cheeses on Central market (Texas only) or Whole Foods. The quality of the cheese makes a great difference to a dish.

Anonymous said...

chef jhon that looks great,
but you HAVE to demo that bonless turkey!!!!11!!!
it looks so good...
please show us how to make it.


Anonymous said...

Would there be any suitable substitute for the ham to make it vegetarian?

Chef John said...

Sorry, you just have to leave it out. I don't believe in ham substitutes. ;)

Anonymous said...

The Return of the holy spoon!

Davide said...

Focaccia di recco looked so good in your picture I had to search for the traditional recipe
It's just flour, salt, olive oil, water and crescenza cheese but the real trick (apart from the quality of ingredients) seems to be the super hot oven..

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: smoked tofu would probably work (the kind that's baked and firm texture), which you can usually find in packaged form at co-ops. also some vegetarian hams are surprisingly good (for faux meats).. google "vegan ham" and check out the chinese site..

Anonymous said...

That foccacia is to die for, I had at Farina it's amazing. I so hope you come up w/ a recipe.

Anonymous said...

I made this tonight and it was so good! But I live in Egypt so did some variations with what I had on hand: sweet potato instead of squash, added some freshly shelled peas, used creamy feta instead of mascarpone (which separated slightly but was still yummy), luckily still had some bacon in the freezer, hand-carried from my last trip to Europe, and added a splash of white wine to the pan before adding the broth. So... a fairly altered recipe but totally inspired by you, Chef John, and very, very tasty. Thanks from Cairo!

Victor Perez said...

As with any recipe, you take what's given to you and make it your own. That said, I made this last night using chorizo sausages, linguini and Pecorino Romano [sheep's milk cheese] and it was fantastic. Definitely another win.

Anonymous said...

Made the spaghetti today.
Super delish! Hubby loves it.

Jane said...

Chef John, I just made this but used bacon b/c it was on sale and linguine as the pasta.

So very, very good. Maybe, very, very, very good.

It's an appealing, hearty and yet, light dinner, especially during the cold month of December.

Thanks Chef John.

Emerald_Mara85 said...

I wish I could buy cheese but its expensive...and yet we have local farmers but they all give their milk to commercial companies...

... T-T

Anonymous said...

Made this dish tonight...was as tasty as I imagined it would be! I'm not into spicy food, but I added a few shakes of red pepper flakes and they added the perfect amount of heat. I went squasless with double the ham and used vermicelli and it all tasted amazing. My first attempt at a Chef John recipie and my first time ever using marscarpone cheese was a complete WIN!