A lovely butternut squash, at once elegantly elongated and voluptuously curvy, kept me company in my kitchen for a couple of weeks as I wondered what to cook with it. Fresh produce items generally demand immediate attention, wilting petulantly to show their impatience, but butternut squash waits serenely, saving its soft golden sweetness for when its harried cook is plumb out of fresh ingredients for dinner.
I got prematurely excited about fall flavors and bought my butternut squash when it was still 80 degrees outside. I squeezed it into my crowded counter top, sometimes propping it up, sometimes laying it down, while I waited for a day cool enough to welcome a warm oven.
In the meantime, I stocked up on the other items I needed to make this pan-fried pasta with butternut sausage and sage recipe from TheKitchn.com. Fresh sage, velvety and silver-green, is sturdy enough to last a few days in the refrigerator. I also picked up some chicken Italian sausage, because it sounded like a good pairing with the sweet squash and aromatic sage.
Faith uses pretty bow-tie farfalle in her her version. This chunky sauce – really not even a sauce – definitely calls for short pasta. But you can use whatever you have.
This recipe makes a generous amount, but the pasta is excellent left over. Normally leftover pasta gets soggy as it continues to absorb moisture from the sauce. But this pasta dish is dry – the pasta rests between soft chunks of squash and crumbled sausage – which keeps the noodles nicely chewy. Faith’s recipe calls for pan-frying the pasta before serving, which gives it a nicely browned crunchy depth. For ease, I serve my pasta simply tossed with the squash, sausage and cheese. But pan-frying is an inspired way to reheat leftovers.
If you haven’t bought a whole butternut squash before, I encourage you to try it. A whole squash hardly costs more than a small bag of pre-cubed squash at the store, and it makes several times more. Since nutrients start to fade away after vegetables are cut, a whole squash cut right before you use it is also more nutritious than the bagged stuff. And a whole squash, skin intact, can keep on the counter for weeks, while cut squash will only keep in the refrigerator for a few days.
Butternut squash looks intimidating, but it’s surprisingly easy to work with. The peel is very thin, not hard like you might expect. Use a sharp knife to cut off the two ends, and stand up the squash on its thick end to cut in half. If you find the peel irritates your hands (it does with some people), wear gloves for cutting.
Sometimes I get lazy about pulling out another kitchen tool. Don’t be like me – it’s so much easier to use a vegetable peeler.
Sage is so pretty and soft. You can fry some for garnish or just chop it all up and roast it with the squash.
Throw in the sage with some onion, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Spread it out on a baking sheet.
It’s fall! On a baking sheet. The sage smells like Thanksgiving.
Remove sausage from casings (use sharp knife to slit down the side) and brown the sausage well in the skillet. Or leave out the sausage and top the pasta with toasted nuts.
Cook pasta in salted water, drain and toss with squash, sausage and good Parmesan cheese. I didn’t get it done before the sun set, so this picture doesn’t do justice to the final dish.
Daylight is a photographer’s best friend. My leftovers, despite their age, look much better with nature’s lighting. Try this dish on a weekend night and have as a bonus leftover meal during the busy week.
Pasta with Butternut Squash, Sausage and Sage
Adapted from Faith Durand’s recipe (served at her wedding!) at TheKitchn.com. Faith goes an extra step and pan-fries her pasta, but it’s also easy to simply toss and eat. Pan frying is an inspired way to heat leftovers, which is great because this recipe makes a huge amount.
- 1 medium butternut squash
- 1 small onion, peeled and diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup fresh sage leaves
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage (poultry or pork)
- 1 pound short pasta (farfalle or other short pasta)
- 4 ounces high quality Parmesan, shredded or shaved (about a cup total)
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Slice the ends off the butternut squash and stand on thick end. Cut the butternut squash in half and scoop out the strings and seeds the middle cavity. Flip the squash halves upside down and peel with a vegetable peeler (wear gloves if the raw squash rind irritates your hands.) Cut squash into 1-inch cubes and place in large mixing bowl.
- Toss squash cubes with diced onion, minced garlic, a few glugs of olive oil and salt and pepper. Mince about half of the fresh sage leaves and mix in with the squash.
- Spread the squash mixture in a single layer on a large baking sheet and roast for about 40 minutes or until the squash is soft.
- Heat about two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. The oil is ready when it pops and sputters (don’t let it start smoking). Drop in the rest of the sage leaves and fry for about a minute, or until they begin to just shrivel up. Remove with a slotted spoon and salt lightly. Crush with the back of a spoon.
- Remove sausage meat from casings, if necessary, and cook in skillet until well browned, pushing down with a large spoon to break up the meat.
- Heat salted pasta water to boiling and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and toss in a very large bowl or pot with roasted squash, sausage and half the cheese (see notes for optional pan-fry step). Garnish with crumbled sage, additional cheese and an extra grind of pepper.
- If you need a tutorial, Simply Recipes has a great step-by-step on peeling and cutting butternut squash.
- For a vegetarian version, omit sausage and top with toasted pine or other nuts.
- Optional: Pan fry pasta in olive oil, as Faith does. Adds an extra layer of flavor and crusty texture. It’s a great way to re-heat the pasta, or if you prepare it a bit ahead of time for guests, you can pan fry right before serving.
Here’s the link to a printable version.