Pasta de calabaza
This creamy Butternut Squash Pasta is a comfort food dream! Luxuriously coated creamy fettuccine with tender roasted butternut squash, crisp bacon, and fresh thyme — does pasta get any better than this?!
If you want to try something different, try one of our other creamy pasta dishes — this Chicken Pasta or Zucchini Pasta Sauce with pasta.
Butternut Squash Pasta
Nothing screams comfort food like a bowl of luxuriously creamy fettuccine and when you throw in some perfectly caramelized roasted butternut squash, well, you’ve reached the ultimate type of comfort food. This may just be our new favorite fall meal and I have a feeling it’s going to be on our menu very often — even the kiddos couldn’t get enough of it!
Prepping Butternut Squash
When picking a butternut squash, look for a uniformly beige, matte color. Choose squash that feels heavy for its size and, if you give the squash a tap, it should sound hollow. If you aren’t using the squash right away, keep it at room temperature in a dark/cool place (left whole, raw, and unpeeled). If you have peeled and chopped it, keep the cubes in an airtight container in the fridge.
With its odd shape, cutting a butternut squash can be an intimidating task, but with a few good kitchen tools, you might find it’s easier than it seems! Here’s a quick overview
- Rinse the squash and then use a sharp vegetable peeler to peel it all.
- Place the squash on a firm cutting board. Using a sharp chef’s knife cut off the top stem and 1/4th inch from the bottom.
- Cut the squash in half (crosswise) where the “neck” meets the wider, base-end section. Now cut each section in half again, right down the middle to get fourpieces.
- Use a spoon to scrape out all the seeds from the insides.
- Lay each of the halves cut side down and then cut each half into 1/2-inch pieces. Cut these pieces into 1/2-inch cubes.
For a quicker prep time, use a bag of pre-cut butternut squash from the produce section of the store. If the pieces are too large, cut them down a bit so they’ll roast evenly for this recipe.
Other ingredients worth mentioning
Beyond the squash, there are a few other key ingredients in Butternut Squash Pasta worth describing in detail:
- Low-sodium chicken broth. Most of the recipes shared here call for chicken stock, but it’s key to use a low sodium chicken broth in this recipe, so the final dish doesn’t end up too salty. There is a good deal of salt in the dish between the bacon, pasta, Parmesan cheese, and butternut squash, so we limit it here.
- Parmesan cheese. For the perfect melt and to ensure the measurement is accurate, grab a block of Parmesan cheese and grate it on the small holes of your cheese grater. Pre-shredded cheese has a cellulose coating (to prevent clumping) that interferes with smooth melting.
- Thick-sliced bacon. To ensure there is plenty of grease (and flavor) left behind, opt for thick-sliced bacon — see “quick tip” below.
- Fresh thyme. We wanted this dish to be simple to make without requiring loads of ingredients, so fresh thyme is the answer for packing in a ton of flavor as a single ingredient — in my bowl, the more the merrier!
The only difference between regular and thick-sliced bacon is that–obviously– thick-sliced bacon is sliced thicker. This means we’re packing in more bacon and subsequently more grease (and flavor!). If you don’t have thick-sliced bacon, you’ll want to use more thin-sliced bacon. We want about 4-6 ounces.
Emulsifying Butternut Squash Pasta
The final step of tossing the Alfredo sauce, hot pasta, and reserved pasta water is one of the “secrets” to Italian pasta. It’s called emulsifying and that’s how you get a luxuriously smooth and incredibly flavorful sauce.
After draining the pasta, the pasta water looks a bit murky and less than appetizing, but it’s filled with leftover starch from the boiling pasta and plenty of salt. Once you combine that water with a hot fat (the creamy Alfredo sauce) the two emulsify (blend together) to create that perfect smooth sauce.
If you’re like me, it’s easy to forget to save some pasta cooking water when you drain the fettuccini. Here’s a memory booster: Set a colander in the sink for draining the pasta. Then, take a one-cup measuring cup and put it in the colander. When it’s time to dump the pasta and water into the colander, you’ll see the measuring cup and remember to scoop out enough for the rest of the recipe.
Butternut Squash Pasta Tips
- Salt the pasta water: Make sure the pasta is well salted as it cooks, since salting the water is the only chance you have to season the actual pasta. Add the salt when the water is boiling and then wait until the water returns to a full boil before adding in the pasta. (Read more on how to properly salt your pasta water here.)
- Increase the sauce as desired: Sometimes the pasta absorbs more sauce or you just want an extra saucy meal, so don’t be afraid to add in a few splashes of the reserved pasta water until the sauce is exactly how you like it!
- Coarsely chop the baby spinach. While the spinach doesn’t have to be chopped it does integrate better in the dish that way. Plus, you’ll get spinach in more bites and the smaller pieces are easier to eat.
- It’s easy to go on autopilot and dump in the whole package of fettuccini, but this recipe only needs 10 ounces. Many packages contain 16 ounces, so save the remaining 4 ounces for another recipe.
Butternut Squash Storage
As with most pasta dishes, this recipe is best enjoyed the minute the sauce is emulsified. This applies to most Italian pasta recipes.
You can certainly store leftovers, but will likely need to add some more heavy cream as you re-heat the pasta to loosen the sauce again. Leftover pasta will be softer, but still plenty flavorful. Because of the pasta and dairy in this dish, it isn’t a great candidate for freezing and thawing.
More ways to use butternut squash
- Butternut Squash Wild Rice Pilafwith a maple-orange vinaigrette
- Butternut Squash Tacoswith the best creamy chili-lime sauce
- Roasted Butternut Squashwith three different seasoning blends
- Butternut Squash Chiliwith quinoa in the slow cooker
- Butternut Squash Soupwith roasted pumpkin seeds
Butternut Squash Pasta
Butternut Squash Pasta
- 6cups (1-3/4 lbs)butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (Note 1)
- 1-1/2tablespoonsolive oil
- 1/4teaspoondried thyme
- 1teaspoonItalian seasoning
- Fine sea salt & pepper
- 10oz. fettuccine
- 4thick-sliced bacon slicesNote 2
- 2tablespoonsunsalted butter
- 1/2cupthinly sliced shallots,optional
- 1tablespoonminced garlic
- 1cup chicken brothlow-sodium
- 1-1/4cupsheavy whipping cream
- 3/4cupParmesan cheesefreshly grated Note 3
- 4lightly packed cupsbaby spinachNote 4
- Optional: fresh thyme, additional Parmesan for toppingNote 5
SQUASH: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. On a very large sheet pan (or 2 smaller ones), add the squash cubes, olive oil, dried thyme, and Italian seasoning. Season to taste (I add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.) Generously space out the cubes on the sheet pan (if they’re overlapping, they’ll steam, not roast) and roast for 30-35 minutes, flipping every 10 minutes or until crisp tender. If they are too closely spaced or cut too large, they’ll take 5-10 minutes longer. Remove and set aside.
PASTA: Set a strainer in the sink with a heat-safe mug or liquid measuring cup. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Generously salt the water and then cook the pasta according to package instructions minus 1-1/2 minutes. Use the mug to remove a big scoop of pasta water and then drain the pasta and set it aside.
BACON: Meanwhile, dice the bacon and cook, over medium-high heat, in a large heavy-bottom skillet until golden and cooked to desired preference. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon onto a paper-towel-lined plate. Leave the drippings in the pan (if there is more than ~2 tablespoons grease, drain off the excess).
SHALLOTS/GARLIC: Reduce heat to medium. Add the butter to the skillet. Once melted, add shallots, garlic, and a tiny pinch of salt & pepper. Cook until golden, about 1-2 minutes. Pour in 1/2 cup of chicken broth; it should sizzle and boil. Scrape up any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Once this 1/2 cup is mostly evaporated, add in the other 1/2 cup. Stir.
CREAMSAUCE: Add in the heavy cream and Parmesan cheese. Simmer, over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 3-5 minutes or until it thickens and slightly reduces.
TOSS: Add the spinach and pasta and use tongs to toss into the cream sauce until the sauce thickens, nicely coats the pasta, and the spinach cooks down (1-2 mins). If needed (sauce is too thick), slowly add in the reserved pasta water. Once sufficiently tossed, add in the roasted squash, 3/4ths of the bacon, and toss to coat.
SERVE: Serve immediately. Top individual plates with remaining bacon pieces, a touch more Parmesan if desired, and fresh thyme if using. Enjoy immediately! Pasta is best enjoyed right after being tossed!
Note 2: Bacon: To ensure there are plenty of drippings (and flavor) left behind, use thick-sliced bacon. If you don’t have thick bacon, you’ll need more (aiming for about 4-6 ounces bacon). Remove excess grease by grasping a paper towel with tongs and dabbing the excess.
Note 3: Parmesan: Grab a block of Parmesan cheese and grate it on the small holes of a cheese grater to get an accurate measurement and the perfect melt in this sauce.
Note 4: Spinach: While the spinach doesn’t have to be chopped it does integrate better in the dish that way. Plus, you’ll get spinach in more bites and the smaller pieces are easier to eat. I just run a chef’s knife through a big pile of spinach quickly!
Note 5: Fresh thyme: We wanted this dish to be simple to make without requiring loads of ingredients, so fresh thyme is the answer for packing in a ton of flavor as a single ingredient — in my bowl, the more the merrier! Yes, it’s optional, but if you’re wanting a punch of fall/winter flavors and love thyme, you’ll love it in this pasta.
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