Nov 01 2011

It’s Worth It

If you caught my recent post about Fleisher's you saw that after two years of vegetarianism, I've started to eat small amounts of meat again. I explained my reasoning in that post, but suffice it to say, I rarely eat meat and when I do, it needs to be worth it. I'm not going to go out for a hamburger just to go out for a hamburger.

This meal is worth it. With the exception of a few slices of bacon for breakfast the weekend before, this dinner is the first meal with meat that I've prepared at home since 2009.

Using Fleisher's as our meat supplier, we've already made this dish twice, first with pork butt and then with ham hock. The total quantity of meat you use in this dish is minimal. There's roughly four times more beans, pumpkin, and macaroni than meat in the dish. If you're a vegetarian, you could skip the ham hock without ruining the dish, though you would need to substitute something else to ensure that the dish has the smoky flavor the meat provides.

It's a warm, filling, and soul-satisfying Fall (and early Winter) stew. It can be difficult to find a dish that hits every pleasure center while fulfilling nutritional requirements (protein? check; fiber? check; Vitamin A? check). This dish does. And though there's some heavy prep work up front, including slicing up a pumpkin, the actual level of energy exerted is low.

Macaroni with Beans, Roasted Pumpkin, and Ham Hock

Recipe Source: Cooking in the Moment

Serves 8


4 cups 1/2 inch peeled and cubed "eating" pumpkin (or winter squash)

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt & Pepper

1 lb dried macaroni

2 large red onions, cut in half and then lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices

6 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped coarsely

1.5-2 cups shredded cooked ham hock

2 dried red chiles

2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary leaves

3/4 cup dry white wine

2 cups cooked white beans (cannellini beans are a good choice)

2 cups of the bean cooking liquid (included in the can, if you go the canned bean route)

Grated Parmesan, for serving


1) Prep the pumpkin: Preheat the oven to 475. Place a large heavy baking sheet in the oven for several minutes, allowing it to preheat. After cutting up the pumpkin, toss it with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. Spread it on one layer of the hot baking sheet. Roast for about 8 minutes, tossing halfway through. You want the pumpkin to be turning brown but not completely tender.

2) Cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta until not quite al dente. Reserve 3 cups of the cooking water before draining the noodles. Set both aside.

3) Return the large pot to the stove over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic with one tablespoon of the olive oil. Cook until the onion starts to wilt, about 3 minutes. Push the onion to one side and add the remaining oil, ham, chiles, rosemary, and salt. *If you're concerned about the onion burning, remove the onion to a small bowl. Cook for 1 minute, until the rosemary and chiles start to crisp. Add the wine and cook for 30 minutes, until slightly reduced.

4) Raise the heat and add the beans and bean liquid. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. Stir well and cook for about a minute. Season with salt and add the pasta cooking water as need to ensure that there's 1 1/2 inches of liquid at the bottom of the pot.

5) Add the squash and continue to cook until the squash is cooked through and the pasta is tender. If necessary, add some pasta water to moisten everything.

6) Divide among bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!