Nothing says Fall quite like hearty recipes–but who says satisfying can’t be healthy, too? Skip traditional pasta recipes and opt for a creamy, nutrient-loaded butternut squash sauce.
The weather has finally cooled where I am, meaning it’s time to dig into autumn-inspired recipes. Butternut squash is always the top of my Fall must-have list, so I’m always trying to think of new, creative ways to use it. With a high dose of dietary fiber; lots of Vitamin A, which is good for eyesight; and plenty of potassium and manganese for managing blood pressure and strong bones, butternut squash can be an easy additive to any dish.
I like using pasta, in particular, because sometimes nothing hits the spot quite like the meeting point between a starch and a starch, especially after temperatures have dipped. The beauty of butternut squash is, though, that it has a low glycemic index–clocking in at less than 100 calories, 26 grams of carbohydrates and almost no fat for a one-cup serving.
Being full of fiber means you’ll become easily full and healthily so, and you won’t have to worry about hunger pangs soon after, as can happen with more nutrient-empty pasta dishes.
How To Make Butternut Squash Sauce
It’s so easy to prepare! If you’re working with a full butternut squash, slice off the ends, lengthwise. Then, cut the squash in half right where it starts to get wider, leaving you two pieces: the thinner, oblong top part and the rounder, bottom “base” of the squash.
From there, you can peel with a vegetable peeler or a paring knife if you don’t have one. At this point, you’ll want to scoop out all the innards, like you would a pumpkin. If you like, sift through and collect the seeds, which you can salt and roast just like pumpkin seeds later to turn into a snack or give added crunch to a dish. Finally, cut the remaining squash into cubes, which will be the starting point for creating the sauce.
My butternut squash pasta sauce relies on a nut or dairy fat to help balance the starch, creating a creamy, almost cheese-like texture that is marked with a hint of the squash’s sweetness. I gave the option of including cashew, almond or dairy to allow for different preferences, but if you’ve ever had butternut squash soup, you’ll know that either milk or nuts will pair perfectly with butternut squash.
The fat smooths out the carbohydrates in both the squash and pasta, adding a contrasting effect while providing a base for the sauce. Rigatoni has proved to be the perfect pasta to use as it allows for plenty of surface area for the sauce to “catch.” Just make sure you don’t rinse the pasta after cooking because you’ll wash off the starch required to make the sauce stick!
Something else I love about this recipe is that it’s the perfect full meal for those who don’t eat meat or dairy. It’s rounded out with the full spectrum of nutrients and is so rich that nobody eating it could possibly feel like they’ve missed out on a necessary component of a meal.
Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta
- 8 ounces rigatoni pasta, dried
- 3 cups butternut squash, ¼-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ¼ cup minced shallots
- 6 tablespoons milk, unsweetened cashew, almond or dairy
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper, plus more for seasoning
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
- Cook pasta according to manufacturer directions and drain.
- Add enough water to the bottom of a medium-sized pot so that it does not rise above the steamer basket.
- Place steaming basket into the pot and then add in the butternut squash. Cover and heat on high, water should be steaming.
- Once the steam builds, cook the butternut squash until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a blender.
- Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add olive oil, once hot add the garlic and shallots and saute until fragrant and tender, 2 minutes. Add to the blender.
- Add milk, ½ teaspoon salt and ⅛ teaspoon black pepper to the blender. Puree mixture until smooth. Taste and add more milk, salt, and pepper as desired.
- In a large bowl or pan, combine cooked pasta, butternut squash puree, and parmesan cheese. Mix to combine and reheat if needed to rewarm.
- Serve pasta topped with more Parmesan cheese and parsley.