The middle of February can be a dreary time. When the temperature only hints at ever making it back up above freezing, all you’ll want to do for dinner is simmer a stew for hours. But since it’s a week day, and you can’t start a pot roast when you get home from work, we’ve got this winter carbonara: rich, herby comfort with just the right amount of decadence for a weeknight, no more than a pot of boiling water away. And it’s a tiny bit vegan. If you don’t count the shards of Parmesan or the crunchy pancetta.
We know, we know, that’s totally nonsensical. But you know what else doesn’t make any sense? How wonderfully silky and creamy this carbonara gets, with not an egg to be found. So no, the dish isn’t vegan, or even vegetarian—those bits of pancetta are too good to pass up— but the puréed squash makes a killer, seasonal, and—dare we say—healthier stand-in for the traditional egg. And if you’re industrious enough to make that squash purée ahead of time, this elegant comfort food will be ready by the time the fettucine gets to al dente.
WINTER SQUASH CARBONARA WITH PANCETTA AND SAGE
Kabocha squash is made for purées.
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 oz. pancetta (Italian bacon), chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
1 2-lb. kabocha or butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into1/2” pieces (about 3 cups)
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
12 oz. fettucine or linguine
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino, plus shaved for serving
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Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8–10 minutes. Add sage and toss to coat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta and sage to a small bowl; set aside.
Add squash, onion, and garlic to skillet; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, 8–10 minutes. Add broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until squash is soft and liquid is reduced by half, 15–20 minutes. Let cool slightly, then purée in a blender until smooth; season with salt and pepper. Reserve skillet.
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
Combine pasta, squash purée, and ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid in reserved skillet and cook over medium heat, tossing and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes. Mix in ¼ cup Pecorino; season with salt and pepper.
Serve pasta topped with reserved pancetta and sage, shaved Pecorino, and more pepper.
DO AHEAD: Squash purée can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill.