Adirondack Inspired: A Foodie's Tale

To say I have a passion for good food is somewhat of an understatement. I used to run a cafe here in town, and prior to moving to this area, worked at Whole Foods Market.

Whitney Tracy

My name is Whitney Tracy and I am going to share some seasonal, Adirondack-inspired fare with you. Before we dive in, a bit about me: I'm newly married and live in the town of Speculator (located at the southern end of Hamilton County) with my husband and two Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs. To say I have a passion for good food is somewhat of an understatement. I used to run a cafe here in town, and prior to moving to this area, worked at Whole Foods Market.

I'm a food photographer in the Adirondacks, but the tough thing about my job is that during winter, you have to base your cooking schedule around when the best light is filtering through your window. Meaning, my husband has come down in the early hours of the morning to find his wife photographing a fully-cooked dinner in that dusky morning light. Those don't really count as leftovers that night, right?

Today was not one of those well-thought-out recipe trial sessions. I worked until 2pm. For those of you familiar with Adirondack November days, this meant I had 2.5, maybe 3 hours of good shooting light left...and I hadn't even MADE this dish yet. So let me rephrase that, I had 2.5-3 hours to cook, style, AND shoot this dish before darkness descended.

November is a month of thankfulness, right? Well, I'm thankful my husband was up in Indian Lake this afternoon, helping a friend build the frame of his pole barn, and didn't see me running around the kitchen like a mad woman, all the while glancing frantically at the clock and praying this dish actually turned out okay on the first shot. I'm also thankful that, after being tripped over 3 times, one of my dogs wisely decided to retreat from the kitchen and nap in front of the fire.

The recipe I want to share with you is a great autumnal vegetarian dish. It's quite impressive to look at for how easy it is, and thus, perfect for a holiday spread.

Now I need to make something clear before getting started, I didn't create this recipe. I may tweak it to fit my liking, but really, all I'm doing is scouring the deepest recesses of the internet, testing good-looking dishes, and then presenting them to you with a stamp of approval. With that being said, this recipe is adapted from one I discovered on HalfBakedHarvest.com.

Back to this wonderful pie. Apart from being a month of thankfulness, November should also be National Pie Month (it's not, I checked. It is however, National Peanut Butter Lover's Month and if we're being honest here, I celebrate that every day). Let's depart from the masses and their pumpkin, apple, sweet potato, and coconut cream pies and make our very own pie...out of pasta.

Butternut Squash & Gorgonzola Rigatoni Pasta Pie

You will need the following:

1 pound rigatoni pasta (the biggest variety you can find)
4 cups cubed butternut squash (about 1 small squash)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt + pepper
4-6 ounces gorgonzola, plus more for topping (I subbed bleu cheese. Our small mom & pop grocery store, unfortunately, does not carry gorgonzola)
8 ounces burrito cheese, divided (if my grocery store doesn't carry gorgonzola, you can bet your behind it doesn't carry burrata. You can sub fresh mozzarella, or, if you're like me, you happen to have a ball of smoked mozzarella sitting in your fridge that works fantastically, too)
1 egg
1/2 cup milk (I used 2 percent Lactaid. My husband is lactose-intolerant. I realize there's already an arm and a leg of cheese in this dish so I'm not sure why I felt the need to cut the milk lactase here)
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chicken broth
1 bunch sage, divided
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400F
  2. Peel the squash, deseed and cut into cubes. Toss those cubes into a gallon ziplock bag and coat with olive oil. Once evenly coated, place them on a baking sheet and liberally coat with salt and pepper. I know grocery stores sell the peeled and diced squash packages now and I'm totally not judging you if that's what you picked up. Time is valuable here. I, however, am knife-happy and have no qualms over peeling and dicing my own squash. From whole squash to peeled, diced, oiled, and sitting on my baking pan, the entire process took less than 10 minutes.
  3. Roast those squash cubes approximately 45 minutes or until tender. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  4. IN THE MEANTIME (because I only had 2.5 hours to get this thing done!), cook the rigatoni until it's slightly underdone. My box said 12 minutes was al dente so I went with 10 minutes. No one wants soggy noodle casserole. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
  5. Lightly oil an 8 or 9-inch spring form pan. For reasons I have yet to ascertain, I only possess abnormal-sized spring form pans. Like, a 6 inch pan and a 10 inch pan. Not 8 or 9, just 6 or 10. Take your pick. 6 wasn't going to feed my husband and me ,and we like leftovers, so 10 inches it was!
  6. Once the squash is ready, transfer it to a food processor or blender (I used my VitaMix). Add the egg, gorgonzola (or bleu) cheese, burrata (or fresh/smoked mozzarella) cheese, and the milk. Because I was in a rush, I had the egg, cheeses, and milk sitting in my blender loooooong before that squash was finished roasting. Whatever order you do it in, once all the ingredients are added, puree till smooth.
  7. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. I actually used a cast iron pot because I own no such skillet large enough to fit all the necessary components. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Throw in the garlic and cook just a minute, or until the garlic is fragrant (Hint: this is another step you can accomplish while waiting for that dang squash to finish basking in the oven).
  8. Pour your cheesy butternut squash puree into the skillet (or pot) and add the chicken broth, cayenne, 1 tablespoon chopped sage, nutmeg, crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine and cook about 2 minutes. A note on the chicken broth. I like good food. I like homemade food. If you are determined to make everything from scratch, I applaud you. I, however, used some of that "Better than Bouillon" paste and the world continued turning. I don't discriminate between boxed broth, bouillon paste, or dried cubes. Whatever floats your boat.
  9. Spoon about 1/2 - 1 cup of the sauce into the bottom of the spring form pan. Because I had a monstrosity of a pan, I used a full cup here. Grab the rigatoni and pack it into the pan, standing on their ends. I think the quality control guy at the rigatoni factory fell asleep on the day my batch was made because my noodles were all wonky. Turns out wonky noodles still taste good, lucky for me. Now if you're sitting here dumbfounded, wondering if I really expect you to stand one pound of rigatoni one end (my husband gave me the dumbfounded look when he discovered I did just that), I do! I have high expectations as a newlywed, just ask my husband. Okay, you don't really need to but it makes for a pretty cool presentation. If presentation isn't high on your list of priorities, make this dish like baked ziti and toss all the pasta and sauce together before throwing it in a pan. Still works and hey, tastes exactly the same!
  10. Now that all your rigatoni are standing up on end, pour the remaining sauce over top. Cover with the mozzarella cheese.
  11. Place your pasta pie in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove, sprinkle the remaining gorgonzola (or bleu) cheese over top and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is nicely browned. Let sit 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
  12. While the pie cools and sets a bit, fry up that sage. Melt the 1 tablespoon of butter in a sauce pan over medium-low heat. Once melted, add the sage leaves and cook for 1 minute. Flip, and cook for one more minute or until the sage has slightly darkened in color. Remove from heat and place on top of your pasta pie.
  13. Remove the edges from your pan (I was freaking out a bit here, thinking everything would just collapse) and serve! We cut ours like a regular pie and it turned out awesome.
About the Author …
Whitney Tracy
Whitney is a food photographer and avid foodie who delights in the culinary adventures of the Adirondacks. Follow her on Instagram @__fjelluft__
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