Thanksgiving is about the Fall harvest – its abundance and our gratitude. Typical vegetables used for this great feast are cranberries, nuts, potatoes, yams, pumpkin and squash.

Most of us incorporate these food ingredients into the dishes from our heritage. Many of you already know that we Italians begin a meal with pasta. And so, on Turkey Day, my first course will be Butternut Squash and Mint Fusilli. It’s fresh, fast and easy. Buon Appetito to all of you and Happy Thanksgiving!

Prep time: 20 to 25 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

4 cups chopped butternut squash (cut into 3/4-inch cubes)
3 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 pound fusilli pasta (this can be substituted with another variety of short pasta)
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons slivered, fresh mint leaves
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Prepare the Butternut Squash:
1. Place the butternut squash cubes in a 2-quart saucepot; cover with water.

2. Cover the sauce pot and bring the squash to a boil.

3. Boil the squash for 3 to 5 minutes or until it is crunchy-tender when pierced with a fork.

4. Drain the squash and transfer it to a glass or porcelain bowl to cool for about 10 minutes.

5. After 10 minutes, in a 12-inch, nonstick skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil.

6. When oil is hot (but not smoking), add the cubed butternut squash and stir-fry for 3 to 4 minutes.

7. After 3 to 4 minutes, toss in the crushed garlic and cook for 1 more minute; set the skillet with the squash aside.

Boil & Assemble the Pasta:
1. Meanwhile, bring a 4 to 5-quart sauce pot of water to a boil.

2. When water boils, add 3/4 teaspoon salt to the water and the fusilli pasta.

3. Cook the fusilli pasta for 8 to 10 minutes or until the pasta is al dente or crunchy-tender.

4. As the pasta cooks, warm up the butternut squash in skillet on moderate to low heat.

5. After 8 to 10 minutes, drain the fusilli pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the boiling liquid.

6. Toss the drained fusilli pasta into the butternut squash in skillet; add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the reserved liquid and toss to warm through.

7. When pasta and butternut squash are warmed through, taste and add more salt (if needed) and a dash of ground black pepper.

8. Divide the pasta among 4 to 6 bowls and garnish with slivered mint leaves.

9. Ask guests to add some Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to their Butternut Squash & Mint Fusilli.
White Wine Pairing: chilled Fiano di Avellino or Pinot Grigio.
Text and Photograph ©2015 Nancy DeLucia Real