There are a lot of ways I try to be mindful of my diet. Avoiding dairy, meat, processed foods. But one of the things I don’t think I could ever give up is gluten – especially when it comes to pasta. I’m such a sucker for a good plate of pasta.
When I was in college I lived in Florence for six months and ate pasta almost daily (along with cannolis, focaccia and vino….and I’m pretty sure you could tell). Years later I ended up working in the kitchen of an Italian restaurant (Spiaggia here in Chicago) where I learned to make pasta from scratch and my obsession with pasta only grew. Let’s just say pasta is in my blood.
I will never give up pasta.
But there are ways I try and make it a little healthier. Like this roasted butternut squash pasta recipe. While it’s creamy and decadent and everything you know and love about a creamy plate of pasta – it’s still dairy-free, made with a generous portion of vegetables and healthy”ish“.
This roasted butternut squash pasta recipe is great for an easy weeknight dinner, but still “fancy” enough for any fall entertaining. If I was hosting a “Friendsgiving” this year, this would definitely be on my menu.
It’s easy to put together and uses a lot of things you probably already have in your pantry. I used a pasta called “pennoni” (essentially a wider penne) which is one of my favorite shapes. I like this wider, larger tube shape for creamy sauces like this because it can hold more sauce, but any shape pasta would work; penne, rigatoni, you name it. As far as brands go, I personally really like Seggiano, which uses only 100% organic Tuscan durum wheat. Because of this, their pastas have a little more of a “bite” and the rougher texture helps the sauce adhere better. You can find them at Whole Foods. For simple dishes like this, especially pasta dishes, the quality of the ingredients matters.
As a little side note, I will also add that it’s really important to season your cooking water when making any type of pasta. You want the water to be at a rolling boil and generously seasoned. It should taste like the ocean. This is your one and only chance to actually season the pasta itself.
Now comes the fun part, making the sauce. The sauce for this simple rustic dish is so basic. It’s a few cups of butternut squash, half an onion, and then a little coconut milk and reserved pasta water. That’s it. Super simple and basic, but honestly so creamy and delicious. Sometimes the simplest of recipes are the most delicious.
I like to top it all of with a generous handful of toasted walnuts, sage, and some microgreens. If you’re not concerned with dairy, grated parmesan or romano cheese would be delicious on this as well. I also like to finish all of my pasta dishes off with a generous swirl of olive oil.
- 16 oz of pennoni pasta noodles (equal to 1# or 1 box)
- 4 tbsp of good quality olive oil
- 2 cups of butternut squash, cubed
- ½ of a white onion, chopped
- ¾ cup of full-fat coconut milk
- 2 cups of reserved pasta water (from when you boil your pasta)
- 1 tsp of salt
- ½ tsp of freshly cracked black pepper
- a handful of toasted walnuts (roughly chopped), sage and microgreens for garnish
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a large cookie sheet, add cubed butternut squash along with 1-2 tbsp of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt/pepper. Toss to ensure squash is evenly coated and place in oven. Roast squash until golden brown - around 30-35 minutes.
- Carefully remove squash from the oven and set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a large dutch oven over medium heat, add 2 tbsp of olive and the chopped onion. Cook for 2-3 minutes until onions are translucent.
- Then add the roasted butternut squash to the pot of onions along with the coconut milk. Stir to combine. Let the squash, onions and milk heat and come together for a few minutes.
- Meanwhile, fill a large pot with water and place it on the stove over high heat. When water is at a rolling boil, add a generous amount of salt (you want your pasta water to taste like the ocean) and then your pasta. Let the pasta cook just until al-dente (you want it to still have a little chew to it). As the pasta cooks, use a large measuring cup (a 2 cup measuring cup works great here) to scoop out some of the pasta cooking water and set aside
- While the pasta finishes cooking, finish making your sauce.
- Add a cup of the reserved pasta cooking water to the pot of onions/squash/milk. Stir.
- Then working in batches, carefully puree the squash/onion/milk mixture in a high-speed blender (Vitamix works great here). When all of the sauce is pureed return it to the dutch oven. Taste. Season with salt/pepper
- When the pasta is done cooking, drain and add it directly to the dutch oven with the sauce. Stir to combine. Add more reserved pasta water as neccessary if the sauce is too "thick". Adding a little at a time. (I use the entire two cups of reserved water when making this, but it depends on your personal preference, and/or how thick your sauce is.
- Add a generous handful of chopped walnuts and sage to the pot. Stir to combine. Taste. Adjust seasoning as neccesery.
- To serve, transfer to a platter of your choice, sprinkle with additonal nuts, sage and greens. Drizzle a generous amount of good quality oilve oil right on top.
- Serve and enjoy!