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A recipe presented at the 7th annual Kohler Food & Wine Experience (October, 2007) by chef Leah Caplan of The Washington Island Hotel, Restaurant & Culinary School - Washington Island, Wisconsin. A very comforting seasonal pasta dish!
- 1 lb penne pasta
- 2 cups leeks, thinly sliced-white and light green parts only
- 1⁄4 cup virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, whole peeled
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1⁄2 cup vodka (Chef Caplan used "Death's Door Vodka")
- 1⁄4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 4 cups winter squash, peeled, seeded and diced (butternut, red kuri, Long Island cheese, kabocha, or blue hubbard)
- 5 cups water
- 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons sage, minced
- 1 1⁄2 cups fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
- stravecchio cheese, grated (Chef Caplan used Antigo Stravecchio, but you may substitute other fine aged local artisanal cheese)
- In a large sauce pot, combine leeks, olive oil, garlic, and sea salt.
- Cook over medium heat until leeks are very tender and translucent and garlic is soft enough to be easily mashed with a wooden spoon (reduce heat if necessary - do NOT brown!) This will take about 10-15 minutes.
- Turn heat to high and add the vodka and crushed red pepper flakes.
- Reduce the vodka until there is just a thin layer of liquid in the pan and a nice aroma in the air.
- Add the squash (the smaller the dice, the quicker it will cook), the water, and rosemary or sage.
- Simmer 10-20 minutes, adding water if necessary until the squash is soft enough to mash with a wooden spoon or potato masher to create a slightly chunky sauce.
- In the meantime, cook 1 pound dried penne pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until almost tender.
- Scoop the pasta into the sauce pot, adding some of the pasta cooking liquid as needed to maintain the sauce consistency.
- Season with drizzled olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
- Stir in the diced mozzarella.
- Serve with grated Stravecchio cheese.