While there are many winter squash varieties out there, my favorite is butternut. I find it easy to work with and versatile. And the great thing is that winter squashes like butternut keep for an extended period of time if stored well.
What I also like is how the butternut squash is used with the pasta. Typically winter squash takes a longer period of time to cook, but we’re going to grate it, and that knocks the cooking time down to just a few short minutes.
Some winter squashes, like acorn, are not so easy to peel. Butternut, with its smooth surface, doesn’t take long. Afterwards, you’re going to want to grate the squash with a handheld grater or with the proper disc attachment on your food processor. I found it easier to grate by hand by breaking a half into smaller, easier-to-handle pieces.
One of my favorite pairings with butternut squash is sage. If you haven’t already, check out the butternut squash, apple, and sage soup I made in the fall. You’re going to want to roughly slice the sage leaves into smaller pieces, but you don’t need to go crazy.
Before serving, I top the pasta with toasted walnuts. You shouldn’t be intimidated about toasting nuts. Toasting noticeably enhances the flavor. And as long as you don’t forget about them, it’s easy. Just place them in a pan over medium-high heat as you prep the rest of the ingredients. Give the pan a shake once in a while. They’ll be done when you notice a slight browning and nutty aroma.
Penne with Butternut Squash, Sage, and Walnuts
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 5 cups shredded butternut squash (from about 1/2 peeled medium squash)
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh sage
- 1 pound penne or pasta of your choice
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Start a large pot of water over high heat for the pasta.
Heat oil and butter in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, and red pepper flakes. Cook for about two minutes before adding in the squash and sage. Stir occasionally until squash begins to brown, about 4 minutes.
When the water is boiling, add a couple of pinches of salt and the pasta. When cooked al dente, drain, reserving 2 cups of the cooking water.
Add pasta and 1/2 cup pasta water to the squash and stir to coat. Cook over medium heat, stirring, adding more cooking liquid as needed, until squash coats pasta. Divide pasta among bowls and top with the walnuts and cheese, if using.
Recipe adapted from bonappetit.com.