Creamy Kabocha Bolognese with Hazelnut Pasta
My latest creation was inspired by Josh McFadden’s Pumpkin Bolognese in his cookbook, Six Seasons. I won’t digress into all the ways I LOVE this cookbook but suffice to say we haven’t made one bad thing in there yet. Though we do tend to make liberal adjustments to suit our nutrition balance and taste. 😀
Although Josh’s version calls for pumpkin, we had this hunk of a Kabocha Squash from our Winter CSA with Stoneboat Farms. As aforementioned, I have historically been neither a fan nor particularly knowledgeable about winter squashes. You could call me ambivalent at best. When we joined Stoneboat’s CSA, we started getting different squashes every week – butternut, kabocha, acorn, and spaghetti.
I was a little intimidated at cooking winter squashes, but I’m a firm believe you can do anything with a great recipe. Jesse at Stoneboat had also told us you could cook a Kabocha pretty much any way you’d cook a pumpkin. In fact, Kabocha is also known as Japanese Pumpkin. It has a milder flavor than pumpkin, making it more versatile.
So when I saw Josh’s recipe for this Bolognese, I decided to give it a try.
Some of the recipes in Six Seasons are all-dayer’s, and while I can certainly appreciate that, sometimes you gotta be realistic about getting dinner on the table in less than an hour. So I shortened up several steps in his recipe to make everything a little more approachable.
In terms of ingredient modifications, like many restaurant-based cookbooks I found things a bit heavy. He calls for butter and olive oil, which I found unnecessary given we are cooking with fatty ground pork.
However, given most Americans don’t get enough protein, I increased the ground pork to a pound (doubling what the recipe called for), but skimmed off about half the fat (maybe 4T) once it had browned and rendered. I also added a drizzle of my favorite Alexandre Family Farm‘s Half and Half at the end to make it a tad bit creamier. Tee hee!
We made this on a work night (I know, what were we thinking??) but with the shortened steps, it wasn’t too bad. In fact, it was a pre-defined “Date Night In”, so having two sets of hands on this recipe really helped. It still took about an hour though – so I’ll recommend you cook this on a weekend.
Final touch? At my local Bales Thriftway, I discovered some gorgeous artisan Hazelnut Fettuccine. And why wouldn’t pumpkin and hazelnut go fabulously together? No reason, because they would and they did.
Here’s how I sustainably-sourced this recipe!
Squash & Onion – from our Winter CSA at Stoneboat Farms (SO GOOD! Highly recommend.)
Carrot & Celery – Organic yet generic variety from the grocery store
Ground Beef – Grass-fed 93% lean ground beef from Painted Hills, available at Bales Thriftway (First Light, Carman Ranch, and Niman Ranch are also excellent grass-fed choices, as is buying from a local farm or an online place like Primal Pastures or Butcher Box)
Ground Pork – I lucked out and got ground pork shoulder from Carlton Farms here in Oregon. That was also at Bales Thriftway.
White Wine – I would have preferred a Viognier but with none on hand, I ended up using a bottle of Semillon from Walla-Walla-based L’Ecole in this bolognese. It ended up with an fantastic aroma in the final dish.
Whole Milk – As the dairy industry can be pretty terrible, I highly recommend small, local dairies. One of my favorites is Alexandre Family Farms out of Crescent City. I have met them and they are just lovely people who adore their animals and take great care of their land. I was in a pinch this particular day though and Bales doesn’t carry Alexandre (yet), so opted for local Alpenrose Organic milk. Organic cows have to be grass-fed 1/3 of the year, and not allowed to be fed GMO or Round-up sprayed grain, so its a start. 🙂
Parmigiano – Recently I have stopped buying pre-grated parmesan cheese from the USA and instead started buying a block of actual parmigiano out of Italy. I use an OXO fine grater to get this lovely pillowy texture out of it. When grated this way, a little bit goes a LONG way. True aged Parmigiano has incredible umami flavor and a lot of science and artistry goes into making the wheels. It’s also from a special breed of cow! Learn more about Italy’s “Practically Perfect Food” here!
Pasta – as you can see from my ingredient picture above, I used some artisan NW Hazelnut Fettuccine from Esotico for this particular dish. I highly recommend it if you can find it or something similar. If not, standard organic fettuccine, linguine or bucatini would all be fantastic here.
A few notes to help you get this recipe perfect the first time, while saving some time!
This is a bit time-intensive of a recipe, between roasting the squash and then simmering all the ingredients together. However, it’s pretty straightforward.
The main call-out I have is that big squashes can be a little intimidating to cut. Make sure you use your largest, sharpest and heaviest knife. You can first try just sliding the knife right through the top of it at the center. If the skin is too tough, try instead to pierce the top of it in a few places with the sharp point of your butcher knife and then place it in the microwave for 2-3 minutes (yes you heard me right!)
Doing so doesn’t really cook the squash – its far too thick for that. But it does warm it up and soften the skin, sufficient to the point you should be able to cut it.
For our Kabocha, we didn’t need to do this step. With quite a bit of pressure we were able to just cut it in half raw. We then scooped out the seeds and gunk until we hit firm flesh, and cut each half into thick wedges (skin still on!) Here’s what they looked like going into the oven:
I sprayed the tops with some avocado oil spray – but you could also brush them with olive oil lightly – and then season with salt and pepper. The cookbook calls for roasting at 400 degrees but this squash was so thick that it was still not tender after 30 minutes of roasting, so we amped the oven up to 425. It took us about 45 min to roast but if you start at 425, it’ll probably save you 15 minutes of time. We turned them twice so they got nice and browned on both sides, nom!
After the squash is completely tender, you’ll remove it from the oven and let it cool a bit, then spoon or cut off the flesh from the skin and throw it in a food processor or blender. When pureeing your squash, depending how dry it was to begin with and how long it was roasted, you may need to add 1/4 cup or so of chicken broth or water to loosen it enough to puree.
The rest of the steps are down below in the actual recipe, and we include photos with several of the steps for reference. As I mentioned, I shortened the steps from Six Seasons so we could get this on the table in about an hour – Josh’s version takes closer to 2.5 hours. You can certainly do this instead, if you prefer to slow-simmer your bolognese.
I manually calculated the calories and macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat) for this recipe using the specific brands of ingredients listed above, and an app called My Net Diary. This app has over 9M users and contains a food database with more than 940,000 food items, 680K of which have been professional verified (the rest have been contributed by other users). I LOVE this app because it allows you to create combined nutrition info for your own recipes.
Although I’ve found this method to be far more accurate than using an automated Nutrition WordPress plugin, there is still the standard disclaimer that your mileage may (can and will) vary. This is for the following reasons:
- The brands of items you get may be different, and with animal products in particular, protein and fat content can vary wildly.
- Your portion sizes may be different than mine. You may decide you need 1.5 of these servings to fill you up
- Human bodies are not the same as machines or engines, and food is far more than just fuel. Regardless what we swallow, what we digest and absorb is going to vary substantially from person to person and even the same person, day to day. Things like sleep, stress, hydration, heat/cold, exercise, and gut biome all play a huge role in nutrient absorption and bio-availability.
For all these reasons, use nutrition numbers as a general starting guide, and pay attention to how food makes you feel when you are chewing and swallowing it. In particular, do a self-check about 2/3 of the way through your plate to see if you are simply satiated and full. This will help you become an intuitively healthy eater and help reset your stomach’s satiety signals to the brain.
For this particular recipe, the Nutrition Information (340 calories, etc) is calculated ONLY on the Bolognese Sauce – not the pasta. This gives you the ability to customize your meal.
If you do find and use the Hazelnut Pasta that I had, just know that I split up one 8 oz package into 5 servings (the package called for 4 servings) and that added 175 calories, 8g protein, 19g carbs, and 7g fat to the dish.
Food As Medicine
This is an important component to each of our Recipes because food is SO much more than simple fuel. It is not just about calories in and calories out. It’s far more than even macronutrients, although those are certainly crucial to our health. Food has thousands of chemicals, hormones, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that our body also uses and needs.
The star player in this recipe is the Kabocha Squash, it is the centerpiece of the entire dish. Indeed, the Kabocha is just as easy to eat and work with (minus the tougher skin) as the butternut, but it has half the carbs (7g vs 16g per serving).
It is important to note that all bright orange fruits and veggies have a powerful antioxidant called beto-carotene. Beta carotene is converted to Vitamin A in the body, and one serving of Kabocha has over 70% your daily needs of it! Vitamin A helps your immune system by producing white blood cells, and its also excellent for your eyes, skin and hair. People having skin issues such as eczema or acne, or people healing from surgical incisions, will find particular comfort in beta-carotene heavy foods!
Kabocha squash is also a great source of Iron, Vit C and some B Vitamins, as well as fiber. Just look at this roasted goodness (and yes I did try some straight out of the oven!)
Here’s what you could substitute easily, if you like.
- Kabocha can be substituted out for Butternut, Pumpkin, or Delicata
- You could try replacing the milk with a nut milk like cashew or almond, though I would not recommend Rice or Soy
- If you’re not doing pasta, there’s no reason you couldn’t stir this bolognese over any sort of grain, from farro to basmati rice. Or try spaghetti squash or zoodles.
- I highly recommend NOT substituting the wine, even if you don’t drink alcohol. When cooked, the ethanol in wine evaporates. What is left is a complex and slightly sharp aromatic flavor profile that you just won’t get with chicken broth. However, if you feel staunchly about it, go ahead and use chicken broth.
You can keep this bolognese in the fridge for up to a week. We do not recommend freezing due to the dairy.
Gear I Used
Shown here, garnished with shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas), fresh cracked black pepper, and a healthy shaving of parmigiano.
Creamy Kabocha Bolognese with Hazelnut Pasta
Nutrition Per Serving