The Man was skeptical. He often is. Anchovy extract and Roquefort cheese? Together? No way. Two very strong flavors could easily conflict, but just a small amount of anchovy extract added to the onions while they finish cooking merely brings flavors together and adds a little saltiness. It’s the Roquefort that actually flavors the dish, and is perfectly balanced by the sweetness of the squash.
I wrote about Roquefort in my Grilled Nectarine Salad recipe post last summer, but I’ll say it again. Roquefort truly is the most delectable blue cheese ever. It’s made from sheep’s milk in Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, a small town in Southern France, and has a creamy yet crumbly texture and a lovely combination of salty sharp flavors combined with a subtle sweetness.
Rumor has it that Roquefort was an accident (as many great things are), created when a shepherd abandoned his lunch in a cave and rediscovered it months later—the cheese was a bit moldy, but exquisite. It’s that mold, Penicillium Roqueforti, found in the soil of those specific caves in southern France, that gives the cheese its unique flavor. That, and the milk of three unique breeds of sheep used for the cheese. Thus Roquefort can only be called Roquefort if it is aged in those caves and made from the milk of those sheep, primarily the Lacaune breed.
How do they do it? Mold is harvested from the caves on rye bread, and dried to produce a powder. It is sprinkled over the cheese curds before they are packed into molds to age. The first three days are spent at the factory where the natural sugars in the cheese turn to carbon dioxide, resulting in Roquefort’s signature holey texture. On the third day, the wheels are sprinkled with sea salt to enhance the flavor, and help preserve the cheese. The salt is drilled into the wheels, thereby aerating the cheese, and creating nice pockets for the blue mold to take hold. At this point the cheese is moved into the caves to age. The caves of course have the perfect cilmate—98% humidity helps the mold to grow, while the cold temperature preserve the cheese.
I can eat Roquefort every way possible, but one of my favorites is to sprinkle it over this hot pasta, melting the tangy cheese over the sweet squash. Delicious.
SQUASH PASTA WITH ROQUEFORT
- 1 small buttercup, butternut or acorn squash
- extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 yellow onion, quartered and sliced
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- a splash of anchovy extract (I used Colatura di Alici from Cetara)
- 12 ounces brown rice pasta (I used Jovial brown rice "caserecce" but feel free to use whatever shape you like)
- a large handful parsley, chopped
- 2 ounces Pecorino cheese, grated
- 2 ounces Roquefort cheese, crumbled
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut your squash in half and remove the pulp and seeds. Peel away the skin and cut into 1" cubes. Toss the cubes with a splash of olive oil in a glass Pyrex baking dish. Season with salt and pepper, and place in the oven to roast for about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, add a splash of olive oil to a skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and minced garlic, and sauté until the onions have softened and are beginning to brown slightly. Add your anchovy extract and a couple tablespoons of water to loosen the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Continue to sauté until the water has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Prepare a pot of salted water, and bring it to a boil. Add your pasta with a splash of olive oil and cook until slightly al dente.
Remove your squash from the oven once soft. Add the onion mixture to the squash. Using a slotted spoon, add the pasta on top of the onions and squash. (You want a little bit of the pasta water to come along for the ride...) Sprinkle your Pecorino and parsley over the pasta and toss to combine. Garnish with the Roquefort cheese. Scoop a serving onto a plate, making sure to get a good dose of blue cheese, and enjoy!
Note: Leftovers can be refrigerated in the Pyrex, covered with aluminum foil. Place covered pan directly into a 400 degree oven to reheat.