Pangrattato is the crisp, garlicky breadcrumbs shaken over a finished plate of pasta, providing fantastic texture and contrast to the creamy sauce. Originally intended as the “poor man’s parmesan”, pangrattato is no compromise. It’s my new favourite pasta accessory.
1 butternut squash
Salt and pepper
2 slices stale bread (any bread will do)
1 sprig rosemary, leaves stripped from stem
1 large clove garlic
400g dried long pasta (spaghetti or linguine)
2 heaped dessert spoons of cream cheese, such as Philadelphia
Handful grated parmesan (about ½ cup)
½ lemon, juiced
Pinch chilli flakes
Preheat your oven to 375F / 190C / 175C Fan.
Scrub the squash skin so it’s clean, but don’t peel it. Carefully cut the squash into quarters, lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Rub all over with olive oil and sprinkle over some salt and pepper. Place the squash pieces on a foil-lined baking tray and roast for about an hour, or until very soft. While the squash is still hot, scoop the flesh out, discarding the skin. Puree the squash until smooth; set aside.
Tip: Pureeing the squash while hot gives a silkier, smoother texture.
Make ahead: Pureed squash can be made up to 2 days in advance. Keep refrigerated.
To make the pangrattato, add the bread to a food processor with the rosemary, garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper. Pulse until fine.
Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add a good lug of olive oil – about 2 – 3 tbsp – and add the breadcrumb mixture. Give it a stir to combine, and keep tossing the breadcrumbs occasionally until crisp and browned. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Put the pasta on to boil in a large pot of boiling, well-salted water.
Meanwhile, preheat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the cream cheese, parmesan and pureed squash. Stir to combine, letting the cheese melt in gently. When the pasta has almost cooked, add ½ cup of the starchy pasta water to the sauce and give it a good stir to amalgamate. Add the lemon juice and a pinch of chilli flakes for necessary lift – then give the sauce a taste and adjust the salt and lemon as required.
When cooked to al dente, drain the pasta but reserve a cup or so of the starchy pasta water. Immediately add the pasta to the sauce, stirring to combine, and adding a splash more pasta water so the pasta is just slightly too wet. (It will quickly thicken as it sits.)
Transfer the pasta to waiting plates, then shake over the pangrattato. Resist the urge to add parmesan on top – that’s what the breadcrumbs are for – and serve.