We only get red poblanos in the fall, when our local farmers leave them on the plants long enough for them to turn that saturated shade of lipstick red. They can be roasted, peeled, and frozen to use through the winter in this and other delicious dishes. You can use an equal weight of fresh red pimentos, red New Mexicos/Anaheims, piquillos, or other curiosity-sparking red peppers you find at the farmers’ market. (I’ve even made this dish with the flame-roasted piquillos I find in jars in well-stocked and specialty groceries.) Of course, you can simply use red bell peppers for the red poblanos, but the flavor will be pale by comparison.
- 3 medium fresh red poblano chilies
- 4 unpeeled garlic cloves
- + salt
- 1 small (2-pound) butternut squash, peeled
- 1 C heavy cream, Mexican crema, or crème fraîche
- 8 oz dried fettuccine
- 1 C grated Mexican queso añejo, pecorino Romano, or parmesan
- 1/4 C coarsely chopped cilantro
Turn on the broiler and adjust the rack so that it’s about 4 inches below the heat. Lay the poblanos and garlic on a baking sheet and roast, turning occasionally, until they have softened and blackened in spots, about 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, rub the skins off the poblanos, pull out the stems and seed pods, then quickly rinse to remove stray seeds and bits of skin. Cut 1 poblano into 1/4-inch strips; roughly chop the other 2 poblanos and scoop into a blender. Peel the garlic and add it to the blender, too.
Fill a large (8-quart) pasta or soup pot with water and add 2 tablespoons salt. Cover and set over high heat to bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, prepare the squash: Slice through the squash widthwise, separating the rounded bottom from the skinnier “neck”; reserve the bottom for another use. Cut the neck in half lengthwise and use a mandoline (I use my inexpensive Japanese mandoline) to slice each half into thin, 1/8-inch sheets. Slice the sheets lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips. You should have about 2 cups of butternut “pasta.”
Warm the cream (or one of its stand-ins) in a glass measuring cup in a microwave for 1 minute at 50 percent power. Pour into the blender jar with the poblanos. Blend until smooth. Taste and season with salt (usually about a teaspoon). Pour into a large (10-inch) skillet set over low heat.
Drop the squash strips into the boiling water and cook until al dente, 1–2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, shaking off the excess water, and add to the skillet with the poblano cream. Add the fettuccine to the boiling water and cook until al dente, 10–12 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup pasta water. Add the pasta, reserved water, and poblano strips to the sauce. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the sauce to a simmer, all the while tossing the pasta, squash, and poblanos together. Stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese and divide the pasta among 4 warm pasta bowls. Top each bowl with a portion of the remaining cheese and sprinkle each one with cilantro.