Butternut Squash Pasta
Every once in a Supermoon, isn’t a lazy day at home just exactly what the doctor called for? I recently had one of these days for myself, which allowed me the chance to create this hearty plate of Butternut Squash Pasta that is the perfect seasonal dish for this time of year.
The whole idea behind this dish came together while brainstorming what I would make for Thanksgiving dinner this year. I’m a big lover of squash and wanted to present it in a creative way. My mind immediately went to pasta. Often around this time, Italian restaurants will serve a special rendition of stuffed ravioli with butternut squash, sage and other warm spices cooked in a rich sauce.
And so then I thought to myself – in a culinary world full of butternut squash filled raviolis and Gretchen Wieners, why not be a Cady Heron? So I pioneered through and built off this idea by using the squash as the sauce, rather than just simply the filling. I roasted the squash until it softened and then pureed it with cheese, to create a rich and creamy texture for the pasta. By adding chicken sausage cooked in warm spices, the plate gains a huge boost of protein and keeps your stomach full. I also added some pumpkin seeds and kale to add color, texture and nutrients to the dish.
The finished product is so smooth and creamy; my friends have found it hard to believe that no actual cream has been added to the sauce. Needless to say, it’s a crowd pleaser and I’m looking forward to serving this dish next week for Thanksgiving with the fam!
The Break Down:
(Serving Size: 8-10 servings)
**Note: This recipe is written for family-sized portion. For smaller quantity, simply cut all ingredients (pasta, protein and spices) by half.
- 1 Medium Butternut Squash -OR- 2 lbs. of diced (easier, but more expensive)
- Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage – 2 lbs., removed from casing
- Whole Wheat Orecchiette – 2, 16 oz. bags
- Nonfat Ricotta Cheese – 1 cup
- Asiago Cheese – 1/2 cup, shredded
- Red Kale – 1 batch, chopped
- Shallot – 1 medium, diced
- Pumpkin Seeds – ½ cup
- Rubbed Sage – 1.5 tbsp.
- Fennel Seeds – 1 tbsp.
- Sweet Paprika – 1 tbsp.
Start with the Sauce:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
2. ***If Using Full Squash (if not, skip to step 3): Carefully slice off the top and bottom with a sharp knife. Then stand squash upright on cutting board and peel off skin. Once skin is removed, gently glide knife down the center, slicing evenly in half from top to bottom. Remove the seeds with a spoon and then dice into smaller chunks (about 1-2” inch cubes). Drizzle lightly with EVOO and sprinkle (about ½ tsp each) with salt and pepper.
3. Spread diced squash evenly across sheet. Drizzle lightly with EVOO (about 2 tbsp.) and sprinkle with ½ tsp each of salt and pepper. Place in oven for 40 minutes.
4. Place softened cubes in food processor (or blender) with ricotta and asiago cheese. Mix.
For the meat, kale and pasta:
1. In a separate pot, bring water to boil for pasta. Right before water boils, add salt to flavor the pasta. Cook as directed on package – removing about 1 minute before ready and reserving about ½ cup of the water that the pasta cooked in.
2. Add 2 tbsp. of EVOO to second pot, over medium-high heat
3. As oil becomes fragrant, add pumpkin seeds, fennel seeds, shallot and 1 tsp of S&P each
4. As shallot cooks and changes color (about 4-5 minutes), remove sausage meat from casing and add to pot, being sure to break up with spoon into bitesize portions.
5. Add sage and sweet paprika. Mix until all is evenly coated. Stir ingredients occasionally.
6. Add chopped kale and stir over medium-high heat until cooked through
7. Add cooked pasta and reserved pasta water to pot with meat, kale and spices. Pour sauce into pot with all ingredients and cook for one minute on high heat.
8. Turn off heat. Top with black pepper and fresh basil if accessible. Enjoy!
Tips & Tricks:
- While waiting for squash to roast in oven, this is a great time to portion out your ingredients and set aside – making it easy to follow the recipe step-by-step.
- If you can’t find red kale at your market, use some curly green! The two types of kale are practically interchangeable and both are best used in cooked dishes – especially when delicious sauces are involved such as this one!
- I enjoy the mild flavor of Sweet Italian sausage; however, it is not always easy to find or accessible at your local market. Ground chicken or turkey are both great substitutes. If you choose to use ground chicken or turkey, use 2 lbs. and season with: 1 tbsp. of sweet paprika, 1 tbsp. of garlic powder, ½ tsp of dried oregano and ½ tbsp. of crushed red pepper flakes.
- Cavatelli or Fusilli are both great substitutes for the orecchiette!