Butternut Squash Pasta Toss

Everyone is going pumpkin crazee! Seriously. It’s like, the temperature drops, the leaves start turning, no wait, the leaves are not even changing colors and yet there is a line out the door of your local Starbucks full of handwringing, mouth salivating crazed patrons waiting to order a grande PSL.

The PSL, for those of you living under a rock, is the Pumpkin Spice Latte. A sugar laden, pumpkin-esque, and crack infused (must be, right?) beverage that warms tummys and puts a spring in the step of everyone who drinks it.

Everywhere you look some regular, old food item has been magically transformed into a delicious fall treat, all with the addition of pumpkin. Pumpkin Pop Tarts, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin flavored pasta, pumpkin marshmallows. Trader Joes even has pumpkin flavored dog treats to get you pooch in the seasonal spirit. But perhaps the worst offender of the pumpkin madness is…wait for it… the Pumpkin Pie Spice Pringles. Yep. Pringles. Don’t worry, they only here for a limited time.

Sigh.

Why must everything we eat taste like a Yankee Candle? (Which by the way, offers five different versions of pumpkin candles.)

I’ve actually never purchased a pumpkin with the intention of cooking it. To me, pumpkins are for carving and that alone is often a lot of work. All the scooping! And I can never seem to get my hands (and forearms) clean enough post disembowelment, staining them orange for at least a day.

No, I prefer to get my pumpkin from a can. And when I want that fresh, fall gourd flavor, I opt for squash. Okay, so technically pumpkin is a type of squash. But squash is just as fun as the jolly pumpkin! Squash likes to party, too!

I’ve been making this pasta dish (or a version of it) off and on for years, tweaking it here and there with this and that. It’s fall in a bowl–sweet and salty and satisfying. It would also be amazing with some thick cut smoked bacon in place of the chicken sausage. Lastly, to simplify this even further, buy pre-cut butternut squash chunks from the produce section at the grocery store, saving you prep time.

Butternut Squash Pasta Toss

Serves four

Gather:
6 oz penne pasta (I used half a box of brown rice pasta)
1 small to medium butternut squash, peeled and seeded
1 1/2 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 T. fresh sage, chopped fine
1 T. unsalted butter
2 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
12 oz spicy chicken sausage, cut into 1/2 inch slices
Pecorino cheese
Salt and pepper
 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 425. While the oven is heating, cut the squash into one inch cubes and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Toss to coat. Bake squash for 15 minutes, turning squash pieces with a spatula once during the baking process. When done, remove from oven and set aside.

While the squash is in the oven, prepare pasta (in a large pot) according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Set aside.

Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add butter and shallots stirring often until shallots are tender, about 3 minutes. Add sausage slices to the pan with the onions and cook until brown. Finally, add the chopped sage to the pan and toss everything to coat. Remove from heat.

Now, toss it all together! Return the pasta to the large pot. Add the sausage mixture, spinach, and a 1/4 c. of pasta water. Stir to combine adding more water if the pasta seems dry. Add the squash and stir to combine. Top with grated Pecorino cheese.