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Butternut Squash Pasta with Sage Brown Butter
Browning butter creates a deep, almost nutty flavor. Throw in some shallots and a few fresh sage leaves and you have a delicious and extremely easy sauce that's perfect with just about everything — proteins, pasta, vegetables. For this dish, I roasted butternut squash, mixed it into whole-wheat pasta, and topped the whole dish with the decadent, buttery sauce.
See all butternut squash recipes.
Click here to see Butter vs. Olive Oil: What's Better?
- 1 butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 Pound whole-wheat pasta, preferably rotini or another short cut
- 3 Tablespoons butter
- 1 Teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1 shallot, diced finely
- 6-8 fresh sage leaves, torn
Butternut Squash Pasta Recipe
This Butternut Squash Pasta recipe is easy to make and ready in 30 minutes or less! Featuring silky pasta, caramelized butternut squash, crunchy walnuts, a to-die-for-delicious brown butter sauce and dollops of creamy ricotta, this pasta packs tons of flavor! It&rsquos the ultimate cozy meal you and your family will love!!
This satisfying, crave-worthy spaghetti with squash pairs beautifully with a crisp green salad or warm kale salad, roasted seasonal vegetables and buttery dinner rolls! Continue to read on for simple tips and helpful tricks for preparing the perfect roast beef every single time! And, don&rsquot miss the step by step photos at the bottom of the post!
Update: This post was originally published in October 2016. I&rsquove made updates to the post below to include new photos and more information about butternut squash spaghetti. Plus, I&rsquove included step-by-step photos and a recipe video to show you how quick and easy this brown butter pasta is to make!
Hi friends! Are you ready for an easy, cozy meal? Because, I have got some seriously fabulous, flavorful pasta for you that is sure to become a family favorite!
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- olive oil
- 1 package (of 4) chicken sausages [I used sun-dried tomato and basil]
- 3 cups orecchiette pasta
- 1 butternut squash, cubed (about 2 cups)
- 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
- 4 ounces walnuts, toasted
- 1 stick of salted butter
- 8 small sage leaves
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- Slide a small baking sheet into your oven and preheat it to 375 degrees.
- In a small dry pan, toast walnuts over medium heat until fragrant. Remove and set aside.
- Peel and cube up two cups of butternut squash. In a bowl, toss the squash with olive oil, salt, pepper and dark brown sugar.
remove pan, add the squash to the hot pan and place back into the oven for 20-25 minutes, stirring once during the cooking time. Remove once the squash is tender.
- In a skillet add a little olive oil and sear the chicken sausages over medium heat on all sides. Remove, slice and add back into the pan to crisp on all sides.
- To a pot of
boiling water add in the three cups of orecchiette pasta. Cook as directed on package to al dente. Drain.
- In a large bowl combine the sausage, pasta and butternut squash.
- Heat a 10 inch skillet on medium/ medium-high heat. Place the stick of cold butter into the hot pan, lift and swirl the butter. Add in the sage leaves and keep swirling until the butter has completely melted, should be a deep brown color.
- Pour the brown butter sage sauce over pasta, toss and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle toasted walnuts over top and serve immediately!
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
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Making a brown butter sauce
When I first saw recipes with a brown butter sauce I was so confused. I hadn’t ever seen ‘brown butter’ in the supermarket or store – what could this mystery ingredient possibly be?
After a little bit of googling, the answer became clear – it’s gently warmed regular butter that becomes golden in colour and nutty in taste. It’s really delicious and indulgent, and I definitely wish I had known about it sooner!
The best way to make a brown butter sauce is to go real slow with it. Add the butter to the pan and heat on low (I have it on the lowest setting). No super hot pan here or it will burn. The butter will melt to become a liquid and then start to foam and slightly bubble. Keep stirring so that the heat is evenly distributed and the butter doesn’t burn. The melted butter will go golden brown in colour and smell deliciously nutty. It really is as simple as that.
For a full tutorial have a look at the Kitchn page.
For Pasta With Butternut Squash and Sage, Brown Butter Is Key
I love pasta dishes that are served with sauces-that-aren't-really-sauces. Not that browned butter or aglio e olio aren't really sauces, but they aren't really sauces in the same sense that, say, tomato sauce is a sauce or ragù Bolognese is a sauce.*
*If you're about to pipe in and say "but ragù is ragù, not sauce!" you can can it. We all know how much you know about Italian cuisine already.
Nope. They're simple emulsions made with a flavorful fat and pasta cooking water that serve the function of a sauce, coating the pasta in a thin, creamy sheen of flavor. Throw in some sautéed squash and some sage and you've got yourself a great 30-minute meal. It's a classic fall and winter dish that can be made right on the stovetop.
The beauty of a brown butter sauce is that you almost always have the ingredients on hand: butter and a splash of lemon juice. Some salt and pepper if you want to get technical, and okay, some frizzled minced sage if you want to get fancy. But that butter and lemon juice is really all you need. I'm gonna give you the instructions for how to make one. Ready? Heat the butter in a skillet until it's as dark as you want, toss in some sage (if you'd like), then add lemon juice.
Okay, it's a little bit more complicated than that, but that's the basic premise.
The hardest part of the recipe is peeling and dicing that squash uniformly. Luckily, we've got you covered in that department. Just check out our video and guide here.
Once that's done, I start by sautéing the squash in olive oil. I know this is a brown butter dish, but if I were to add the butter right from the start, it runs the risk of burning before the squash is completely done. I prefer to save the butter for later, adding it after the squash has browned and tenderized, which takes only about five minutes.
When the butter goes in, I add some minced shallot with it, then cook it all together, stirring constantly and keeping a careful eye on how dark the butter is getting.
If you've ever browned butter in a skillet for a recipe before, you know that as the butter heats up and its milk proteins slowly undergo the Maillard browning reactions, it can take on a wide variety of colors and flavors, a spectrum that goes from mild, milky, and pale to medium brown and nutty, all the way to nearly-black and roasty (and we're not counting actual black here because, trust me, except in rare circumstances, you don't want to make a sauce out of burnt butter). So brown butter sauces can vary accordingly in flavor and intensity, as well. That splash of lemon juice at the end not only adds brightness and flavor, it also plays the equally important role of regulating the sauce's temperature: when it hits the pan, everything cools down, halting the butter-browning process in its tracks.
To make mine, I cook it to a nutty blond before adding in my sage for a brief sizzle, followed by my lemon juice.
Brown butter sauces can also vary in texture. In some cases, like in a classic sole meunière, the sauce is served broken, with pools of glistening butterfat speckled with bits of browned butter solids to drag your fish through. In other cases, it's more thoroughly emulsified. When I'm making it for a dish like this butternut squash pasta, I like it to be emulsified into a creamy sauce that really coats the pasta and squash.
How do you make that emulsion? The secret is pasta water, the starchy cooking liquid left in the pot after your pasta is done cooking. It's the extra starch that does it. A few splashes of pasta water added to the browned butter as you toss it with the pasta adds just enough starch to keep the emulsion stable. That is, if there's enough starch in your pasta water to begin with.
In restaurants using fresh, handmade pasta cooked in a large pasta-boiling machine, that's not an issue. As batch after batch of pasta cooks throughout the night, that pasta water gets very starchy, making sauces simple. At home, most cooks are only cooking a single batch of pasta, and they're doing it in a large pot. What's more, modern pasta—extruded through teflon dies and dried at high temperatures—simply doesn't release as much starch as homemade or traditional dried pasta. In order to get your starch concentrated enough to really make a difference, I always recommend cooking dried pasta in a minimal amount of water—just enough to cover it by a couple inches.
As we've shown in countless recipes and tests, using a large volume of water for pasta is simply not necessary and can actually be worse for modern pastas. I cook the pasta, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until it's a little shy of al dente (about two minutes less than the package directions indicate). I drain it, reserving a couple cups of the starchy pasta water, and then I toss it and a few splashes of water with the squash, bringing it all to a violent simmer over the highest possible heat to allow the mechanical action of bubbles to do the work of emulsifying the sauce for me.
See how nice and creamy it gets? I keep simmering it hard until the pasta is fully cooked, splashing in extra pasta water as necessary to keep things nice and loose. If your pasta ever starts to stick, your sauce starts to look greasy, or you hear the ssssszzzzzzz sound of something being fried rather than the pthshsppphhsshpphtthtphps sound of a simmer, it's time to add a splash more pasta water.
Once the pasta is tender, I pull the whole pan off heat and add grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, tossing it all together and seasoning with salt and pepper.
It might not be quite as easy as opening up a jar of tomato sauce, but it's delicious and seasonal and hey—if you've got yourself an extra-large squash, you'll even have enough leftover to make some easy stovetop squash soup the next day.
Make It Snappy: Brown Butter & Sage Butternut Squash Pasta
I have a confession: I don’t love fall as much as a lot of folks do. I don’t break out my sweaters and boots before I absolutely have to and I wouldn’t be caught dead with a Pumpkin Spice Anything before October 1. I can’t help it, I’m a spring and summer girl through and through. I am, however, head-over-heels for the flavors and aromas of fall cooking.
To me, autumn means pairing apples with onions, preparing Sunday dinners in the slow cooker and reaching for the rosemary, thyme and sage in my herb garden. And of course, autumn means cooking with butternut squash. My Brown Butter & Sage Butternut Squash Pasta brings together two of these classic fall flavors!
In each “Make it Snappy” column, I invite you to take advantage of a short cut offered to you by the grocery store and this is one that I have been preaching for years: pre-cubed butternut squash. In fact, it’s become a bit of an inside joke with my followers on Instagram. If you have ever gone toe to toe with a butternut squash then you know exactly why. They are large. They are unruly. They are stubborn and they are flat out dangerous. Peeling and cubing a butternut squash seems straight forward, but in that simple process you’re likely to lose a finger! The density of the squash and the force required to slice makes moving a knife through it choppy and inconsistent. If your knife slips, you’re risking serious injury. I have concluded that it’s not worth endangering myself when there is perfectly good, pre-cut squash on the grocery store shelves. You may pay a bit more, but when you think about the time you’ll save and the medical bills you’ll avoid, you may find that it’s worth it in the long run!
I am not a professionally trained chef, only a seasoned home cook. But brown butter sauce can be a bit tricky if you’re not familiar with the process and I wanted to share my experience with you.
BROWN BUTTER 101
- When it’s time to make the sauce, be ready to stay close by. It can come together quickly and if you step away, you risk burning the butter.
- The goal of a brown butter sauce is to heat the butter enough to evaporate the water, which will cause the solids to separate and toast. The toasted solids are how the brown color and nutty, rich flavor are developed.
- It’s best to use unsalted butter. Because of the way the butter separates, the salt can become concentrated in the solids and ruin the flavor.
- I advise using a skillet with a light color interior, such as stainless steel or a light cast iron like Le Creuset. The key to the butter is watching the color, so a dark base will make it difficult to see the color changing. I like to make mine in a dutch oven which leaves plenty of room to toss the pasta in the butter sauce before serving.
- Cut the butter into smaller chunks before melting, 6-8 pieces. If you put the whole stick in, it won’t melt evenly and some butter may burn while the rest is still melting.
- Resist the urge to crank up the heat! You need the butter to foam, meaning the bubbles will release the water, but butter also burns easily. On a scale of 1 to 10, stay in the 3-6 range. If the color isn’t as deep as you’d like, add time, not heat.
- Watch the sauce! The butter solids will look like sand forming in the butter. In my experience, they’ll start to turn orange, then a rust color and finally a deeper red brown. As soon as you see this deeper brown color, remove the skillet from the heat. You do not want the solids to turn black!
- Keep stirring the sauce for another minute after you’ve pulled it from the heat. It will continue cooking off the heat and you want to be sure the solids don’t cook too long and become black.
- Trust your nose, when the sauce is brown and it smells rich and nutty, you’re all done!
Now that we’ve got that down, let’s look at a wonderful application of brown butter in the form of a fall-friendly dish:
BROWN BUTTER & SAGE BUTTERNUT SQUASH PASTA
By: Christy Bray Graves
- 2 lbs. cubed butternut squash (or one whole butternut squash, cubed)
- 2 TBSP olive oil
- 2 TBSP brown sugar*
- 1 lb. short cut pasta (such as penne, rigatoni, cavatappi or farfalle)
- 8 TBSP (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 6-8 pieces
- ¼ cup of fresh sage leaves, minced (or 4 teaspoons dried sage)**
- Parmesan cheese
- Nuts such as chopped walnuts or almonds
- Sesame seeds, toasted pumpkin seeds, I even like to use Trader Joe/s Everything but the Bagel Seasoning
- Preheat the oven to 400°. Toss the cubed butternut squash in the olive oil and brown sugar* until lightly coated. On a large sheet pan lined with foil (for easy cleanup!), spread the squash out in one even layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Roast the squash for 20-25 minutes turning every 10 minutes until the squash is tender and starting to caramelize.
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
- While the squash roasts and the pasta cooks, melt the butter pieces over medium heat in a large skillet or Dutch oven with a light-colored bottom. Stir frequently.
- After the butter has started to foam and sizzle, stir in the sage and cut the heat back to medium low. Keep stirring often to prevent burning!
- Watch the sauce, looking down beneath the sage to monitor the color. The butter solids will look like sand and go from orange to a deep red-brown. As soon as the solids turn brown, remove the skillet from the heat. Keep stirring for one more minute.
- Finish the sauce with parmesan cheese or dried sage if using.
- Toss the pasta and roasted squash in the brown butter sauce. Garnish with nuts, seeds, or additional parmesan and fresh sage.
*Brown sugar is optional but can help the squash caramelize if you like it just a bit sweeter.
**I use both fresh and dried sage as I feel that using them together creates a deeper flavor. I add the minced fresh sage leaves to cooking butter and then stir in a teaspoon of dried sage when I remove the butter from the heat.
As a wife and mom of three young boys, I often consider myself a master “chaos coordinator.” Between running our family business, Chapel Hill Toffee, managing our household and balancing busy schedules, I love to create quick and simple recipes that I know my family will enjoy – and my kids will actually eat!
My recipes are more of a guide than a perfect plan. I will always encourage you to use what you have on hand and make substitutions to suit your tastes. I invite you to share your own ideas, questions and final products with us on Facebook and on Instagram by tagging @christybgraves and @wchlchapelboro.
Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil for the pasta.
Coat pumpkin or butternut squash with EVOO and season with salt and pepper. Arrange on a baking sheet and roast to tender and lightly browned at edges, about 25 minutes.
Melt butter in a skillet then add crushed garlic. Swirl a minute then add sage and crisp leaves while butter browns remove sage with fork to paper towels and cool. Discard garlic and remove pan from heat.
Cook pasta in salted water to 1 minute shy of al dente per package directions. Reserve a cup of starchy water before draining pasta. Add pasta back to hot pot along with ricotta, Parm, reserved brown butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg, if using toss to coat. Add some of the starchy cooking liquid if the sauce is too tight. Add roasted pumpkin or butternut squash and adjust seasoning.
Serve in shallow bowls topped with crispy sage leaves and pumpkin seeds, if using.
Making Handmade Pasta:
There will be a lot of photos in this post because a picture is worth a thousand words, it will far easier to follow the instructions if you see the process first. We start by making the pasta. Flour, eggs, and a little olive oil is all you need. Combine in a bowl, this may take a few minutes. Once combined turn out on a floured surface and begin kneading.
Knead until dough is smooth and elastic, it should feel like play dough. Kneading takes about 8 minutes. Cover and chill in the fridge for about an hour.
- 1 large butternut squash - halved lengthwise, peeled and seeded
- 2 teaspoons butter
- salt and ground black pepper to taste
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese
- 50 wonton wrappers
- 1 teaspoon egg white, lightly beaten
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- ¼ cup chopped fresh sage leaves
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Place the squash cut side up on a baking sheet. Place 1 tablespoon butter in the hollow of each half. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cover the squash with a sheet of aluminum foil tucking in the edges.
Bake squash in preheated oven until tender and easily pierced with a fork, 45 to 65 minutes.
Scoop the cooked squash into a bowl, and mash until smooth. Mix in the allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and Parmesan cheese until well blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Fill a deep pot with lightly salted water and bring to a boil.
To make the ravioli, place a wonton wrapper on a clean, flat surface. Brush edges with the egg white. Place about 1 tablespoon of the squash mixture in the middle of the wonton. Cover with a second wonton wrapper. Repeat with remaining wonton wrappers and squash mixture until all have been used.
Drop the ravioli into the boiling water, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until tender. Remove, drain, and keep warm until sauce is prepared.
To make the sauce, melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the sage. Continue to cook and stir until the sage is crispy but not browned. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place 6 to 8 raviolis on serving plates, and drizzle with sauce.
Butternut Squash Agnolotti with Brown Butter Sauce
Agnolotti, ravioli, tortellini….it’s all so good. Stuffed pastas allow you to really show your creativity and personality. In addition to controlling the flavor of the stuffing, you can play with the ratio of pasta to stuffing, and the sauce. Yes, it does take a bit of work, but I think it’s worth it. Especially if you make several servings at once and freeze the extra – then you can take it out whenever you want.
Agnolotti, are really just ravioli that are folded to create the pocket, as opposed to using two pieces of pasta with the stuffing sandwiched between. This recipe for butternut squash agnolotti is great in the fall as the leaves are changing colors, and it starts getting cold outside. A great accompaniment is a brown butter sauce seasoned with sage, and then garnished with some toasted almonds.
Ingredients for Butternut Squash Agnolotti
- Pasta sheets
- Cooked butternut squash – a cup
- Ricotta cheese (although I used goat cheese in the video – you can use any creamy style cheese)
- Parmesan cheese – a quarter to a third cup
- Olive oil – a few tablespoons
- Butter – a stick
- Sage – 5 – 7 leaves
The only complicated part of this recipe is that it requires a few distinct steps that can each be a bit time consuming, but they are not that hard. The most important of which is making the pasta. If you don’t want to make your own pasta there are a couple short cuts.
Option one, is to find a store that sells fresh pasta sheets. Many specialty Italian markets will carry pasta sheets, and they make a good alternative to making your own. Option two, is to buy wonton wrappers at your local grocery store. While wonton wrappers (or skins) are pretty much available anywhere, I think they make a pretty poor substitute. The thickness is usually not right, and the texture is a bit chewier than fresh pasta. But if that’s all you have, you can follow the same process described below.
Butternut Squash Stuffing
This stuffing is very simple, and lets the squash shine. Feel free to doctor it up a bit, if you’d like.
- Peel the butternut squash, and dice into cubes about 1 inch on each side you’ll need about a cup to make about 20 Agnolotti.
- Toss the pieces with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in a 375 degree over, until very tender
- Add the squash, ricotta cheese (use about ½ the amount cheese as you have squash), add about 2 tablespoons of finely grated parmesan cheese, and about 2 tablespoons of butter to a food processor and blend until smooth.
- If needed, add a bit of water or olive oil to loosen the mixture enough to get a smooth creamy texture and put the blended mixture in a bowl
- Roll out the pasta into sheets (I like the thickness setting of 4 or 5 on most standard rollers if you’re rolling it yourself), and cut out rounds with a cookie cutter (don’t have a cookie cutter? Use an upside down glass and a knife to cut out the rounds). I like the rounds to be about 2 – 3 inches in diameter – that size makes them one or maybe two bites each.
- After you have the rounds cut, put about a tablespoon of filling on each piece of pasta. You’re going to fold the round in half and encapsulate the filling in the middle – so it’s important not to put too much filling down. If there’s too much you’ll have a tough time sealing the pasta, but at the same time, you want to make sure there is enough to balance out the pasta. After filling a few you’ll get a sense of how much filling to put into each.
- To seal the pasta, dip your finger into some water and moisten one side of the pasta round. Fold the round in half, keeping the pressure on the outside edges (with little to no pressure on the stuffing itself – otherwise it will squirt out). Then with your fingers, press the pasta edges together, while working around the half moon shape. After you have the initial seal, press hard around the edges to cement them together.
- Dust with flour as you go, to prevent sticking
Since the pasta is only going to take a few minutes to cook, I like to make this sauce before starting the pasta. Once I get it to the right color, I just take if off the heat and cook off the pasta.
- Heat a frying pan over medium heat until hot, and add in your butter. About 4 tablespoons for 10 – 15 agnolotti should work
- The butter should immediately start sizzling and foaming up a bit
- As the water evaporates, the butter will start to turn brown this is just take 2 – 3 minutes, and then turn the heat to low
- Add the sage leaves, which will fry up and get nice and crispy in the butter while they release their flavor
- The butter will slowly get a deeper brown over the next several minutes. Keep the heat low, and if it looks like it’s turning dark brown, take off the heat, as the butter can burn, which doesn’t taste good. If it starts to smell, anything like “bad”, the butter’s likely burned and you should probably start over.
- In a separate pan toast some slivered or shaved almonds, and allow them to cool
Fresh pasta only takes about a minute to cook, and this is no exception. Before you start cooking the pasta make sure you have whatever sauce your using ready to go.
- Bring a pot of water to the boil and season with salt
- Drop your agnolotti into the water, and give them a gentle stir to prevent sticking
- Let them cook for about a minute, and turn up the heat on whatever sauce you’re using (I like a brown butter sauce) as you’re going to drop the pasta directly into the hot sauce.
- Remove the agnolotti from the water, and drop them into your sauce, toss to coat, and turn off the heat. Add the parmesan cheese and toss again.
- Season with salt and pepper
Spoon the agnolotti and some of the sauce into a pasta bowl, garnish with the slivered almonds, and enjoy.