A hearty fall pasta dish complete with a creamy butternut squash sauce, crispy sage, fresh kale, and zesty ricotta!
Say hello to your new favorite fall past dish! There is nothing more autumnal than a pasta sauce made with an entire butternut squash. Combine that with fragrant sage and creamy ricotta and you have yourself a perfect hearty pasta dish!
Butternut Squash in Pasta??
Initially, I was quite skeptical of the idea of a pumpkin/squash/sweet potato pasta. I also never particularly enjoyed butternut squash in any form. But that was before I knew about how creamy and rich a squash pasta sauce could be! Plus, the color is just extraordinary.
The roasting and blending completely transforms your typical butternut squash into something glorious and satisfying. It almost didn’t retain any of its squash-y (hehe) flavor which I appreciated immensely.
Roasting Butternut Squash
Instead of a standard pasta sauce with lots of cream or butter, this sauce gets its structure and flavor from blended, roasted butternut squash. Peel, seed, and cut the squash into ¾ inch pieces. Place on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Toss and roast in a 400°F oven for 20 minutes to start out.
Then, remove sheet pan from oven and add on a few cloves of garlic for the last 10 to 15 minutes of roasting. Everything should come out tender.
Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce
After the squash (and garlic) has cooled down a bit, transfer it to a high-power blender or food processor in batches. Combine with at least 1 cup of stock and blend until smooth and thick. The mixture should be somewhere between a purée and a thick soup. Add more stock as needed if it seems too thick.
Taste and season. At this point, my mind was absolutely blown by how savory yet delicately sweet the sauce was. I can now understand why people consume SOUPS that are just made of this stuff.
Keep the sauce warm on the stovetop as you prepare everything else.
Sage, Kale, and Ricotta
Pasta dishes can get very rich so let’s talk about these important ingredients that keep it interesting. In a non-stick skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in the fresh sage leaves and cook until fragrant and crispy, about 2 – 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel to drain.
In the same pan, add in chopped kale. Sauté over medium-high heat until just wilted.
Finally, mix together ricotta, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste together in a small bowl. This will add a fresh *zing* to the dish!
Let’s Talk Pasta
What kind of pasta shape?
Since the sauce is thick and creamy, short pasta shapes are great for catching onto that goodness. I chose a fun rigatoni which worked well but you really can’t go wrong with any other short pasta shape.
Cooking the Pasta
While the squash is roasting, you can start on the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook according to directions. Just before draining, reserve at least ½ cup pasta water which we will use in the sauce. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce that is warming on the stove.
Toss to coat the pasta evenly, then, off the heat, add the 1/2 cup Parmesan and toss until the cheese is incorporated. Add a few tablespoons of the reserved pasta water if the sauce seems too thick. Toss in kale. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Divide the pasta among bowls and top with crispy sage and ricotta. Serve with extra Parmesan. Optionally, top with nuts of choice to add texture. Enjoy while hot and take in the savory, creaminess of butternut squash pasta!
If there is leftover pasta, wrap tightly and store in the fridge for up to 5 days. It works beautifully as a pasta bake – top pasta with fresh ricotta and bake in a 350°F oven for 15-20 minutes or until heated through, depending on how much there is.
Sage Butternut Squash Pasta with Ricotta
- 2½ pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into ¾-inch pieces
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock, more as needed
- ½ cup packed fresh sage leaves
- 5 oz kale leaves, rinsed and chopped
- ½ cup ricotta
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1 pound short pasta such as rigatoni, gemelli, or casarecce
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan, with more for serving
- Heat the oven to 400°F. Place the squash on a sheet pan. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Toss well and roast for 20 minutes. Toss and add garlic to the sheet pan. Continue to roast until the squash is very tender, about 10 to 15 minutes more. While the squash roasts, bring a large pot of water to boil.
- Meanwhile, in a large (12-inch) skillet, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the sage and cook until the leaves begin to crisp, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove sage to a paper towel-lined plate and let drain. In the same pan, add in kale and additional oil if needed. Sauté kale until wilted, around 1 minute. Remove from pan.
- Mix ricotta, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste together in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Working in batches if necessary, transfer the roasted squash and garlic to a blender or food processor, along with 1 cup stock, and blend until smooth and thick. The consistency should be somewhere between a purée and a thick soup. Add more stock as needed, if it seems too thick.
- Transfer the puréed squash to the reserved skillet and keep warm over very low heat. Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water, along with 1 tablespoon salt, and cook until al dente. Just before draining, ladle 1/2 cup pasta water into a measuring cup and set aside.
- Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce. Toss to coat the pasta evenly, then, off the heat, add the 1/2 cup Parmesan and toss until the cheese is incorporated. Add a few tablespoons of the reserved pasta water if the sauce seems too thick. Toss in kale. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Divide the pasta among bowls and top with crispy sage and ricotta. Serve with extra Parmesan.