When the summer tomatoes have long gone, this butternut squash pasta sauce will satisfy. It’s so rich and creamy that it almost tastes unhealthy. Toss it with any kind of pasta you like, but I find that the sauce clings especially well to penne.
My favorite protein to serve with this pasta is seared shrimp, but chicken or spicy sausage also compliment the dish well. It’s also perfectly suited to be enjoyed on its own. Regardless of how you decide to indulge in this recipe, be sure to keep plenty of grated parmesan on hand.
- 1 (2½-lb.) butternut squash
- 1 lb. penne pasta
- Large red bell pepper
- ¼ cup half-and-half, plus extra
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 tbsp. tomato paste
- ½ cup chicken stock
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus extra
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Red pepper flakes, to taste
- Kosher Salt
- Freshly cracked pepper
- Fresh basil leaves
- Protein, optional
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut off stem from butternut squash, then carefully cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and pulp. Brush the cut side generously with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lay cut-side down in a cookie sheet lined with foil. Bake in a 375°F oven for 1 hour, or until the flesh becomes very tender.
- Meanwhile, char the bell pepper over a gas stove or under a broiler until blotchy-black all over, turning occasionally. Then place the charred pepper in a bowl and cover with a plate or plastic wrap, allowing to steam inside the bowl for 5 to 10 minutes. Next, scrape off the skin from the bell pepper and remove stem and seeds.
- When squash is tender, scoop out about 2 cups of flesh and place in a food processor with the cleaned bell pepper. Blend until smooth, adding ¼ cup or more of half-and-half in a steady stream.
- In a large saucepan, heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat. Add minced shallot, tomato paste, and a pinch of salt; sauté about 30 seconds for the shallot to soften, stirring frequently. Then add the blended squash-pepper paste to the saucepan. Stir in ½ cup of chicken stock and heat through. Season to taste. Keep warm and set aside, stirring occasionally to prevent burning at the bottom of the pan and adding more stock as needed.
- Cook penne pasta in boiling, salted water according to package directions. Once pasta is al dente, strain and reserve about a cup of pasta water. Then transfer drained pasta to the butternut squash sauce.
- Stir in grated parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, and add a little bit of pasta water, stock, or half-and-half to thin out sauce. Season to taste again. Serve pasta immediately with minced basil leaves on top, extra grated parmesan cheese and a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. If desired, add your favorite protein, such as shrimp, chicken or spicy sausage.