Once the butternut squash is roasted, this creamy pasta comes together in a mere 5 minutes.
So, why butternut squash pasta?
Besides the fact that I had 6 pumpkins on my counter for over a week, I’ve been wanting to capture the flavors and textures of butternut squash ravioli but in a way that’s practical for weeknight dinner.
Roasting coaxes the natural sweet flavor of butternut squash. It’s truly delicious and works well with pantry staples (pasta, chicken/vegetable stock, cream, fresh herbs, and nuts).
And, since I’m not a fan of peeling and chopping butternut squash, there’s none of that, just spoon-tender flesh that’s easy to work with.
One of my long-standing healthy desserts is roasted squash with a pat of butter and pumpkin pie seasoning. It’s pretty intuitive to think of fun ways to enjoy pumpkin via desserts; I once won a contest with a butternut squash cupcake with sage cream cheese frosting…but it’s more rewarding (and challenging) to go savory with it.
So, in pursuit of the savory version of butternut squash, this recipe combines shallot, garlic, sage (or thyme) and some Wisconsin cheese called Romano (a cow’s milk version of Pecorino Romano).
I tasted the sauce before and after adding the cream. Without the cream, it reminded me of butternut squash soup. So, I think just a dash of cream is needed for richness, almost like a fettuccine alfredo.
This is a mildly flavored dish that really benefits from the nutty, umami quality of the cheese. So, if you need a dairy-free alternative that still tastes flavorful, I’d highly recommend substituting some shiitake bacon (thinly sliced and roasted shiitake mushrooms).
Which noodles go best with butternut squash sauce?
Spaghetti will mop up the light sauce quite well. For a good gluten-free alternative, use your favorite wheat free pasta or try using spiraled butternut squash, itself, in place of the noodles.
Butternut Squash Noodles Tip: You can find pre-spiralized squash noodles in the refrigerated section of many health oriented grocery stores. Since they are raw, I like to microwave them on high for 1 minute, until steamy, and use in place of regular noodles.
This butternut squash pasta would be wonderful with a green salad with a champagne vinegar-shallot vinaigrette. I’d also recommend including a variety of vegetables, roasted nuts, or proteins:
- Roasted and crispy Brussels sprouts or mushrooms
- White fish, steak, or chicken
- Roasted and chopped hazelnuts or walnuts
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- Red chile flakes
- Fresh herbs: basil, thyme, sage, or parsley
With some of these ideas, you could include the sides on the same roasting tray as the butternut squash, killing two birds with one stone.
Top Tips for a Flavorful and Creamy Sauce
- For maximizing the potential of the butternut squash, I recommend seasoning with salt and pepper throughout the cooking process. That way, you only need to make slight adjustments at the end.
- While I like olive oil, I think butter would be equally (if not more) compelling in this recipe.
- If adding sage, I suggest stirring it around a bit in the hot pan with the shallots to really bring out its essence.
- Whether using an immersion blender or regular blender, your sauce will have the best mouthfeel right after you add the cream and bring it to a brief simmer.
- To prevent an overly thick sauce, start by adding only 3/4 of the cooked noodles. While you can thin the sauce by adding pasta water, do this sparingly as it can cause the flavor to be, well, watered down.
If planning for leftovers, it’s a good idea to consider how much the sauce will thicken in the fridge. Store the noodles and sauce separately or consider cooking only 12 oz of noodles so they have plenty of sauce to sit in.
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