Let's not beat around the pumpkin patch: It's fall. I have this obnoxious orange-yellow-beige-brown-green knitted, striped sweater I bring out whenever the weather even tries to be brisk. Here's how it goes down:
Weather: I think I'm going to be brisk today.
Me: Go ahead, Weather! I'm ready for your games (already wearing the sweater).
I wear this sweater so often but don't really know how to wash it without shrinking it, so it's probably pretty dirty right now. Oh, look! I'm wearing it again.
It's the kind of sweater you'd want to go to work in, the kind you'd want to go on a date in, the kind you'd wear to Hobby Lobby, to Bed Bath & Beyond, and even to bed. Sure, I sleep in it; it's so soft and good to me, why wouldn't I?
On busy nights when all I want to do is wear my favorite sweater and carbo-load in front of the television with my 40-pound rescue pup in my lap, it helps to have a supper I can throw together without a second thought. Pasta is a good place to start (duh, it cooks fast). And the sheet pan method, where everything cooks at once in the same vessel, in the oven (out of sight, out of mind), means even the clumsiest cooks can manage.
Inspired by Amanda Hesser's Summer Weekend Pasta, I wanted to come up with a weeknight version for my favorite season. An ode to fall (as well to its briskness and efficiency), this easy dinner starts with a sheet pan of my favorite things to eat—guanciale (Italian cured pork jowl, the O.G. in authentic carbonara); sweet, caramelized butternut squash; and dark, iron-heavy Tuscan kale—which all get tossed into cooked orecchiette and grated over with salty Pecorino.
This pasta makes enough for two servings (and if you look at the finished dish closely enough, you'll notice that it has the same colors as my sweater). If there are two of you, then good for you! But if you're like me, happily alone, then pack half of it for lunch. "Tonight Lucullus is dining with Lucullus."
A note on guanciale: I love the fatty gaminess that crisped-up guanciale lends, but if you can't find the cheeky meat in your grocery store, then pancetta and bacon are perfectly delicious substitutes. —Eric Kim
- Prep time 5 minutes
- Cook time 40 minutes
- Serves 2
guanciale (or thick-cut bacon, if you can't find guanciale), cut into 1/2-inch dice
butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice
Tuscan kale, cut into 1-inch pieces
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
- While the oven is preheating at 400°F, cut up the guanciale and butternut squash. Toss them onto a sheet pan, drizzle with the olive oil, shmoosh them around a little, and roast for 30 minutes. At this point, take the sheet pan out, stir in the kale, and place back into the oven to roast for another 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil and cook the orecchiette according to the box’s instructions, usually 9 to 11 minutes or al dente. Drain and add back to the pot. Tip the contents of the sheet pan into the pasta pot and toss with the Pecorino Romano. Salt and pepper to taste.