The first rains have fallen here in Napa, the array of plump, colorful pumpkins are growing outside the markets, and orange and red leaves are forming a soft blanket over the ground. This time of year always makes me hungry for cooking the way I picture mothers in rural villages in Italy cooking - with love, relaxed form and sustaining warmth. It makes me want to cook up some of that nutty, full-flavored faro pasta, and toss in some diced Kaboocha squash - no worrying about separate pans and perfection.
Truffles are starting to form exciting lumps in the Italian and French soils, and just happen to be phenomenal with pasta and squash, so I turn my hunt instead to the freezer where my leftover truffles from the Wine and Truffle company in West Australia are waiting the perfect dish. I compliment the truffles with a sauce of truffle mustard mixed with olive oil and lemon, and some wintery baby arugula to toss through at the last. Mustard and squash or pumpkin are great together!
You can easily do this without the truffles and just shave on some hard piquant cheese - I love it with a sheep milk Pecorino or young Manchego, or even just some fresh ricotta!
The wine? You may be thinking rich aromatic reds, but my tastebuds take me to a Gruner Veltliner I have recently discovered, the Laurenz und Sophia Singing from Laurenz V winery in Austria. It literally does "sing" on the palate, so aptly named and beautifully compliments the sweet squash and rich pasta, its vibrancy picking up the lemon and mustard in the sauce. You can hear an interview with the real Sophie at our Slow Living Radio Archive.
Due to the random rustic nature of this recipe, I decided to write it as I cook it: no measuring, no rules and feel free to let it flow to your own palate! Try it with any veggies you like in season.
Squash and Arugula Pasta with Truffle Mustard Sauce
You will need:
Faro or wholewheat pasta
Chopped squash of choice (Kaboocha or butternut are my faves)
A teaspoon or so of Truffle Mustard (see note)
Sqeeze lemon juice
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Arugula, rocket, rucula or roquette (same thing, different countries)
Shaved black truffles and hard aged cheese
To cook it:
Pour a glass of Laurenz und Sophie Gruner Veltliner (to enjoy while cooking).
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add the pasta. Cook for a few minutes then add the squash and cook until the pasta is al dente. Drain well.
Whisk together mustard, lemon and oil and taste. Adjust as you prefer. Toss through the pasta with as many arugula leaves as you prefer.
Serve into bowls and top with shaved truffles and cheese. Enjoy with more Gruner!
Chef's notes: I use the Wine and Truffle Company Mustard as it uses a wonderful quality Dijon as the base and the balance is just divine. You could also just use a good Dijon and add a dash of truffle oil.
For stockists of the wine, go to www.foliowine.com
For information on the Australian Truffles and products, go to www.wineandtruffle.com,