This pasta is everything: a hearty, creamy, cheesy, flavorful bowl of autumn comfort! Flavored with shallots, garlic, and thyme, the creamy and sweet butternut squash is pureed with a dash of cream into a rich velvety sauce. A sprinkling of pecorino romano cheese balances out the sweetness of the squash and makes this the perfect dish for the holidays. I use this dish as an elevated and elegant fall pasta entree, similar to fettuccine Alfredo, that is both healthier and lighter all the while being just as rich and more flavorful!
The beautiful orange color of the pasta is an ode to the colorful fall season of the Midwest, thanks to the in-season delicious butternut gourds everywhere. I love cooking with these squashes because they just taste so delicious, and provide such high nutrition. Butternut squash is an excellent source of antioxidants vitamins a, c, and e. It is also high in iron, folate, and manganese. Surprisingly, butternut squash is especially high in potassium; it actually provides more potassium than the long touted banana! Potassium is essential for lowering blood pressure, as well as preventing stroke and cardiovascular disease.
Being a mindful eater, I like to remind myself and my family: everything you eat can heal you or make you sick. Because this pasta sauce is 90% butternut squash and vegetables, you really do not need to worry about losing out on great nutrition. Enjoy this delicious and healthy pasta dish, guilt free!
While this makes for a delicious and sophisticated pappardelle or fettuccine pasta entree that you can toss with mushrooms or red peppers, I have also adapted this dish for picky kids by cooking it with bow-tie or penne pasta and using sharp cheddar cheese instead of the romano. It makes for a waaaaay more cheesy pasta, that many kids mistake as mac ‘n cheese. Maybe they realize it isn’t mac n cheese once they start eating, but that hasn’t stopped anyone from getting seconds! I served this up for kiddos in a few parties and play dates, and they LOVED it. This pasta dish is a win-win.
For this dish, the squash simply needs to be peeled then chopped into cubes. Using a regular potato peeler works great for peeling the hard skin. Cut off the bottom, and cut off the top so that the squash can stand on a flat bottom. Slice the squash in half and proceed to chop into 1 inch cubes. You will need to scoop out the small ball of seeds in the rounded portion of the squash. Expert tip: rinse and roast the seeds to enjoy later as a snack!
The rest is incredibly easy; chop the shallots and garlic roughly. Everything will be pureed so you truly don’t need to aim for perfection here.
I boil the pasta while I chop the vegetables. While the pasta drains, I sauté the shallots, squash, and garlic. Before you know it, you are ready to blend this sauce smooth and toss the pasta in! Enjoy, or as we say in Egypt, in the Arabic language: Bil Hana wil Shifaa (With happiness and health). Go on, enjoy that orange squash and delve into this delicious, hearty, creamy pasta dish, (mostly) guilt free!
Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta
- cast iron pot recommended
- 1 lb pasta of choice, fettuccine or pappardelle recommended
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 fresh butternut squash small size, about 1.5 cups chopped
- 3 tbsp olive oil or safflower oil
- 1 c vegetable broth
- 1 c heavy cream omit this for a vegan sauce, increase broth to desired consistency
- 1 tsp salt add more to taste
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1-2 tbsp fresh thyme Reserve more to garnish
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 c pecorino romano cheese, shredded Use 1 c yellow sharp cheddar for an extra cheesy treat!
- Boil a pot of water and cook the pasta according to instructions for "al dente" pasta.
- While the pasta cooks, prepare the vegetables. Cut off the bottom and top of the squash, and then peel the entire thing with a vegetable peeler. Slice it down the center, scoop out the seeds from the rounded section, and save to roast them later. Dice the squash into 1 inch cubes.
- As soon as the pasta cooks, drain it and return it to the pot or a large bowl and toss with 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil 1/2 tsp of salt and pepper. This is done to prevent the hot pasta from sticking and clumping together.
- Over medium-high heat, saute the shallots and garlic in 2 tbsp of oil in a large cast iron pot, or a large heavy bottom pot that heats evenly and sears well. As soon as they soften, add the butternut squash and sear it until golden.
- Add the broth, reduce heat to medium-low and allow the squash to simmer until softened. This takes about 5 minutes.
- Add the heavy cream, thyme, remaining salt, and balsamic vinegar, stir well, and then blend the sauce smooth with an immersion blender until no chunks remain.
- Stir in the pasta, followed by the cheese. Toss well until all the cheese has melted and serve to enjoy immediately.
- If you want to make to make this ahead of serving, leave the last step of tossing in the pasta and cheese until just before serving. The pasta sauce can be reheated in the pot if it cools.
- Add more broth and 1/4 c of cream to thin the sauce out if necessary.
- For variation and color, toss in diced red bell pepper and sautéed mushrooms.