Hello Old Friend! We have been going through some pretty big changes the past two months. Changes filled with mixed emotions; bittersweet, and exciting. Change is always welcomed. It is good to shake things up, keep life fresh, and grow. Well, that is what we are doing; shaking things up. With change and mixed emotions comes comfort food such as this Delicata Squash Pasta Shells with Brown Butter Bechamel recipe.
A few of you may have overheard some chatter that we had to move from our tiny home and the 20 sq.ft. kitchen. It was emotional tough; not leaving a space, but knowing I would not be seeing the people I have grown to love the past 10 years on a daily basis. No more MEM poking their smiling faces in to say hi. No more, Max getting me to play not one but a couple games of ping-pong, even though I am terrible at it. No more, Ella and Maggie helping me make dinner. No more, Evelyn or Will stopping by with mail, or to share a glass of wine. Or the impromptu dinners. I didn’t care about the material things. It was the relationships that I was struggling with. This was family. Friends. Children I helped nurture.
Then there was the realization that we did not want to stay in the city any longer, not because we had fallen out of love. Rather it just didn’t make sense any longer. Rents have tripled in two years, and it is criminal to give someone else all of that money, just to rent. Buying in the city wasn’t an option unless we wanted to leave in a closet. We wanted space. We wanted some adventure. Leaving a structure you cohabited, is one thing, leaving the city was another. We both tease about leaving the Bay Area, to head East or maybe somewhere new and affordable. But, we haven’t done it. Now, after twenty years, we have done it. I am tough until the moment we cross the bridge, on a that perfect, blue-skied day in the city, with the last of your belongings in our car. The tears start flowing. Surreal. It’s like a break-up, one you hope to have back someday, but one that may not come around again.
Once we realized we had been out genderfied, we jumped ship so to say and headed East. Not quite the East, we always toy with but it was East. We found a modest new home in “up and coming” West Oakland. No question about it, it is edgy and gritty; but, we love it. It is urban and industrial. The distant sound of the train hitting the tracks. Gorgeous nighttime views of twinkly shipyards and the sunrises and sunsets are pretty awesome. There is an old wreckage yard across from us, and the light shining on the graveyard where parts go to die is amazing. The potential of this area is pretty grand, and we are thrilled to become a part of it.
In the same breath, we are so excited to be starting our new home together. Sure we have been living together for 7 years; but, we always lived in someone else’s “home”. All fond, and more than lovely memories along the way. But, this is ours; all sparkly three floors. We are excited to unpack boxes, set-up utilities, pick out paint colors, figure out the confusing world of blinds, try to fill all these cupboards in the kitchen, (remember we had everything in one cupboard in our old kitchen), meet all of our new neighbors, and we cannot wait to have friends and family over, on a regular basis, to break bread.
Last week, we had an “oh my god, what did we do” moment. After talking through it, and remembering the positive things that come with change, we were good. Some comfort food was still in order, though.
I have been wanting to make a squash lasagna for some time but have not found the time. I could not find fresh pasta, and while I usually make my own, I wasn’t in the mood. I did happen to find jumbo pasta shells, at a new to my market, and I turned my recipe around to accommodate this change. Jumbo pasta shells stuffed with creamy ricotta, hand-heavy amounts of fresh sage, and then drowned in a brown butter bechamel sauce. This recipe did not disappoint it was creamy, comforting, and perfect; just like our lives, no matter where we are. Our loved ones will always be wrapped in our arms, no matter where we lay our heads at night. Change is good.
Delicata Squash Pasta Shells with Brown Butter Bechamel
1 medium-sized delicata squash, peeled and sliced thinly
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
1 small clove garlic, minced
12 sage leaves, minced
1 lb ricotta
kosher salt, to taste
1 lb pasta shells
1 recipe brown butter bechamel
1 lb fresh mozzarella
8 sage leaves, minced
Heat the oven to 350.
Cook the pasta shells according to the package directions. Drain very well, and drizzle a little olive oil over the pasta, and gently toss, this will prevent them from sticking together. Set aside.
In a large frying pan, over low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the shallot, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, stir, and cook for 1 minute.
Add the squash, stir, and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the sage. Let cool.
In a mixing bowl add the ricotta, stir until creamy. Fold in the squash mixture. Season with salt to taste.
Stuff each shell with some of the cheese and squash mixture., and snuggle them in a baking dish, that has been lightly buttered. You may have a few shells left over, simply squeeze them in the baking dish to fill the gaps.
Pour the bechamel sauce over the top.
Top with torn pieces of fresh mozzarella, and sprinkle over the minced sage.
Bake for 45 minutes, until bubbly, and golden.
Depending on your oven it could be a little more or a little less time.
Brown Butter Bechamel
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small shallot, finely minced
4 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup shredded gruyere
salt to taste
In a large saucepan brown the butter, with the shallot.
In another saucepan gently warm the cream and milk together.
Once the butter is browned, lower the heat to the lowest number on your stove.
Add the flour, and quickly whisk.
Add the milk mixture, a little at a time, whisking constantly, until a thick paste forms.
Then add the remaining milk mixture. Whisk, until thick, about 7 minutes.
Add the cheese, stir until melted.
Season with salt.