Pasta from the Freezer, the Pantry, the Fridge

Pasta from the Freezer, the Pantry, the Fridge

Gone are the days of frenetic food buying. You know the kind. The kind where you walk, briskly, into your favorite grocery store, dutifully carrying your list. The list you made after actually taking the time to plan meals for the week. Just the week. Not something crazy like a month of meals but still, a week of planned meals. And, seeing as though you’re quite proud of yourself for your organization, you smile a bit smugly as you tighten your grip on that list and dash in the entrance to the store…although not before grabbing a cart and sanitizing yourself and the cart from head to toe. No time for the flu.

You enter the store and begin traversing it in your usual manner. A loaf of blueberry bread here, a 1/2 pound of sliced turkey there. Check. Check. And then, you make a gentle turn and find yourself veering off the appointed path and heading straight to the latte counter. You tell yourself it’s okay since with all the list making you forgot to eat a proper breakfast and you can feel the dull ache of a headache in the works. The caffeine will surely be the cure.

Back on the path, you find that even though you’ve been in this store hundreds of times and it’s practically your home away from home, you’re starting to feel overwhelmed by the list and trying to find the corresponding aisles for the products you need. So, you just start going up and down each one. Hunger is gaining on you. The time is ticking away. The caffeine just doesn’t seem to be helping and now, you just start throwing things in your cart. “Ah, the baby’s favorite crackers.” (I know, I know. He’s not a baby anymore but humor me, and just let me call him that.) “Voila…my dear daughter’s beloved tapioca.” “Some more dried blueberries for my sweetie.” “Doesn’t the 10-year old love Honeycrisp apples?” And, so on and so forth and before you know it, your cart is brimming, half with items off your list and half from items you just tossed in.

Arriving home, you find that there are already two unopened boxes of the baby’s favorite crackers waiting in the wings, two uneaten containers of tapioca in the fridge and your sweetie and the 10-year old are a bit burnt out on the dried blueberries and Honeycrisp apples. So, you give yourself a gentle scolding and tell yourself you’ll try to do better next time. Stick to the list.

Fast forward a bit and you’ve arrived at the “Great Recession” and with a nod to the economy, you force yourself to exercise restraint. To stick to the list. To use up what you have. And you remember trips to your Grandmother’s house. Trips in which you would explore her fridge, her freezer and….down, in the deep, dark basement her “deep freeze”. That fascinating, “space-agey” contraption. At her house, you would always find an assortment of jars covered in foil and filled with last night’s meal. Little bits of food rolled up in tin foil. And, frozen ice cream pops in the shape of Santa. Nothing put down the drain. Nothing thrown in the trash. And, you recall, how once a week, your own mother would pull out all of the leftovers from that week’s meals and lay them on the table…from reheated stew to a scoop of stuffing to 5 green beans. And, you remember how much you liked leftover night. Your own personal buffet. And, you always looked forward to those 5 green beans…but then, again, you have a thing for green beans especially these green beans.

butternut squash
And so, even though you sometimes miss the “Roaring 90’s”, you realize that restraint is good. It forces us to prioritize. To make decisions. And, you insist to yourself that you’ll stick to the list. And, what’s more….before making the list, you’ll force yourself to get up out of your chair and actually take a look in the pantry, the fridge, the freezer. What is lurking in there? What needs to be used up? And, there, in the back of the freezer a little bit of sunshiney orange will catch your eye. “Ah-hah!” The leftover butternut squash you threw in the freezer after making this soup. Which is perfect since you just came across a recipe you’re dying to try and it calls for…what else…but butternut squash. And you’ll smile a bit smugly to yourself. Feeling quite proud of not just your organization…but your resourcefulness to use up what you have.

Pasta from the Freezer, the Pantry, the Fridge
From Louisa Neumann of The Portland Pickle

Truth be told, I would have never thought to put pancetta, butternut squash and broccolini together in a dish and top them off with pepitas. Not only would I have not put them together but I could never have imagined how absolutely delicious they are together. The way the salty pancetta plays off the sweetness of the squash….yum!! Last summer, I stumbled upon Louisa Neumann’s delightful blog, The Portland Pickle. I love being surprised by the little gems of food knowledge that she passes along to all of us with her posts. Besides writing and managing her blog, she is also a personal culinary instructor, a caterer and can be found regularly teaching classes at In Good Taste in the Pearl District. Many of you know how I feel about my children learning to cook (if you don’t, click here) so I look forward to signing them up for one of Louisa’s children’s cooking classes.

In the meantime, I thoroughly enjoyed this recipe of Louisa’s that I filed away last fall, just waiting for some leftover butternut squash. And, in case you were wondering, my kids loved it just as much as I did.

2 cups butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1/2 bunch broccoli rabe, tough lower stems removed, cut into thirds
(I was unable to locate broccoli rabe at my grocery store so I substituted in broccoli which I realize is not the same thing at all as broccoli rabe but it turned out delicious…..)
3/4 c pancetta, diced (I used “thick sliced” Boar’s Head pancetta from the deli counter)
Pinch of crushed red pepper
2 cups orecchiette pasta

1/2 cup grated parmesan

1/4 cup green pumpkin seeds (pepitas) (I found mine at Trader Joe’s)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Toss the squash with olive oil and salt and place in a single layer on a sheet tray and bake in the over until soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and reserve.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Set up a bowl of well-salted ice water.

Drop the broccoli rabe (or broccoli, if you’re like me) into the pot of boiling water, swirl it around, remove from the water and immediately plunge into the salty ice water. (If you’re using broccoli, let it cook for about 4 minutes). Reserve the boiling water to cook the pasta in. Remove the broccoli rabe (broccoli) from the ice water, squeeze or drain out excess water and reserve.

Coat a large saute pan with olive oil and add the pancetta and crushed red pepper. Bring the pan to a medium heat and cook the pancetta until brown and crispy. When the pancetta is brown and crispy, add about 3/4 cup of the broccolini cooking water. Simmer until the water reduces by half. (The original recipe has you adding the squash in here as well but I was worried about the squash getting…well, squishy and squashy so I waited and added it later.)

Add the orecchiette to the reserved boiling broccoli rabe water and cook until the pasta is al dente, about 1 minute less than the cooking time says on the box.

Remove the pasta from the water and add to the pan with the pancetta. Add the broccolini and about a 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water but be very, very careful here, since you are adding water to oil and it gets rather combustible. Gently add your butternut squash here. Cook until the water has evaporated and the sauce clings to the pasta. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the grated parmesan. Gently combine all the ingredients.

Spoon into a dish. Top with a little more grated parmesan and the pepitas. Enjoy.

Yield: Serves 2 – This is what the original recipe says but I was able to feed myself and 3 children from this. Definitely no leftovers though which is a shame since I can’t stop thinking about this dish so I would recommend that you at least double the recipe. You won’t be sorry.

NOTE: Whatever you do, don’t skimp on the pancetta. It’s needed to balance out the sweetness of the butternut squash. If anything, you can cut back on the squash a little. Enjoy….

All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009-2010


  1. Angie Muresan says:

    Love the new look, Carrie! And this pasta looks delicious!

  2. Thanks, Angie!!

  3. Louisa Neumann says:

    Hey, Carrie! Great post. Such thoughtful and good writing. I keep coming back here again and again.

  4. Louisa, I'm so thrilled you've enjoyed it. I can't tell you how many rave reviews I've received from friends who have made your delicious recipe and just loved it. Thank you for sharing it with "us"!