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Food is always best when it encompasses what’s in season. During the fall, squash becomes ripe with the stem beginning to dry on the vine. When cured correctly, winter squash lasts all throughout the winter months.
My go-to on any weeknight is sliced squash roasted at high heat drizzled with olive oil, salt, and pepper. The sugars in the squash caramelize and a crisp browned crust is formed. It’s always perfect!
Squash is one of the most versatile vegetables. It can be roasted, used in soups, mashed, and so on. And it’s the base for this pasta sauce. I love the simple, sweet flavor that butternut squash gives to the pasta. It has become a fall favorite in my house!
How do you cook a winter squash?
Squash can be cooked in various ways. Butternut squash has thin enough skin that it can be roasted with the skin still on and then consumed. Other varieties with thicker skin, such as kabocha, need to be peeled in order to roast the flesh.
The best way to cook squash without roasting and browning the flesh is to slice the squash in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and then place the cut side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. During the baking, the squash will brown on the exposed skin side but perfectly cook the flesh, which can then be scooped out with a spoon and used in recipes.
What does cooking pasta to al dente mean?
Most pasta recipes will mention cooking pasta to al dente. Not all pasta box instructions give an explanation as to what that means. Simply put, al dente means “to the tooth.” So instead of cooking the pasta for the full recommended time, a slight bite is left in the pasta. It could almost seem as though the pasta is slightly undercooked.
So why is this done? Once the pasta is added to the hot sauce and stirred, the pasta finishes cooking, absorbing the sauce. This way the pasta does not become overcooked and mushy. Perfect!
Questions about this recipe
Yes! This pasta sauce can work with other kinds of pasta. I find it best to stick with a tubular pasta that holds up well to the hearty sauce. A rigatoni or penne works great also!
Yes! Any winter squash will work well. Kabocha, Red Kuri, buttercup, Hubbard, and others all will work. Each squash can have a different water content so more or less pasta water may be needed to create a sauce, but all will be equally delicious.
Watch how to make this squash pasta
Sausage & Butternut Squash Pasta
- 2 lb butternut squash
- 1 head garlic
- 1 lb Italian sausage sliced into ¼-inch pieces
- 1 lb paccheri pasta
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp chopped sage
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 6 oz tomato paste
- 1 – 1 ½ cups pasta water
- 4 oz grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove the stem of the squash and slice it in half lengthwise. Discard the seeds. Drizzle the cut sides with 1 tbsp olive oil and set the cut side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Slice off the stem and about ¼-inch from the top of the head of garlic, exposing all the cloves. Place in the center of a square of aluminum foil. Fold up the corners of the foil and tightly pinch to create a packet.
- Place both the squash and garlic in the preheated oven. Cook the squash until tender and softened, 30-40 minutes. Cook the garlic until golden brown and soft, 40 minutes.
- Once the squash is done cooking, start the pasta. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tbsp salt. Pour in the pasta and cook until al dente, or when the pasta still has a slight bite. Paccheri pasta will be about 12-15 minutes. Once al dente, remove from the water until ready to add to the sauce.
- While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. In a 6-quart Dutch oven, add 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and spread to an even layer. Sauté until browned on both sides, 6-8 minutes. Remove the sausage from the Dutch oven and add the onion, salt, and garlic. Sauté until softened, 4-6 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and sage. Then add the tomato paste. Stir and cook the tomato paste until darker in color and just beginning to stick to the bottom of the Dutch oven.
- Add the scooped out squash and 1 cup of pasta cooking water. Use a potato masher if the squash needs to be further mashed. Turn the heat to low. Stir until smooth.
- Add the pasta and stir until it is all coated in sauce. Add the reserved sausage and Parmesan cheese. Stir and serve.