Celebrate the cooler weather by sharing this creamy butternut squash pasta with friends and family! This dish is surprisingly light but packed with delicious winter flavors like fresh butternut squash, kale, cranberries and chopped walnuts. A great recipe that is perfect to share and sure to impress!
Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta recipe
If you've been a reader of this blog for a while you may remember that I grew up a terribly picky eater. My grandmother still pokes fun at the fact that there was only one thing I always wanted to eat when I was growing up, macaroni and cheese.
And while macaroni and cheese still has a huge place in my heart, I've learned to love quite a few other food. However, there's just something irresistibly delicious and nostalgic about cheese and pasta together. This creamy butternut squash pasta recipe is a "grown-up" variation of my favorite pasta dish.
Tender noodles are loaded with cheese, but then mixed with fresh butternut squash, kale, cranberries and crunchy walnuts. Something the whole family will love, kids included!
When I think of fall and winter, I think of squash. Squash is not something that I would have eaten as a kid, a teenager or even a young adult in college — though, ironically, my kids love butternut squash.
It's something I've only grown to love in the last four years or so. Ever since, I've loved trying it in different recipes like this pasta dish, butternut squash rice pilaf and these butternut squash crostini I made a few years ago! And now this butternut squash mac is a favorite too. It is a must-cook dish for the fall season!
Why You'll Love this Recipe
This pasta dish is perfect in fall in winter, but for more reasons than just its flavors.
- It's great to bring to a party or work gathering because it's vegetarian and super easy to pull together!
- I love that this pasta dish has not one, but two veggies. Plus there is protein from the walnuts and creamy sauce and you can even add extra protein if you want.
- You can easily customize this healthy butternut squash pasta with your favorite toppings, some extra seasonings, fresh herbs, or anything else your imagination comes up with!
This dish may look complex, but it's actually super easy to make. I think my favorite thing about it may be how colorful it is, especially because "winter" recipes don't always seem to be that bright and colorful, that tends to be reserved for summer dishes. Butternut squash is just the secret ingredient to liven up delicious recipes for cold nights in the winter!
- medium pasta shells
- extra virgin olive oil
- cubed butternut squash
- dried cranberries
- chopped walnuts
Creamy Sauce Ingredients
- unsalted butter
- all purpose flour
- heavy cream
- grated parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
Substitutions and Variations
I used medium-sized shells for this recipe, which is similar to orecchiette. It is one of my favorite pastas, but you could use another shape instead! Penne, ziti, rotini and even long noodles like spaghetti will work.
Want to make this pasta dish gluten free? Youcould also use zucchini "zoodles" or spaghetti squash. Here's how to make spaghetti squash to use as pasta. Gluten-free rice noodles will work great too!
Not a fan of dried cranberries? Use raisins or even fresh cranberries instead. Swap walnuts for chopped pecans or sliced almond too. Pumpkin seeds are another yummy topping for this delicious pasta.
Parmesan is one of the best cheeses for pasta dishes like this one, but pecorino and feta are great too. And there's no rules...use multiple cheese if you want!
How to make Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta
This favorite fall recipe may look a bit complicated at first, but I promise it's not! Just follow these simple steps and you'll have the creamiest butternut squash pasta in no time. Here's what you'll need to do:
Make the pasta
First, set a large pot of salted water to boil. Once the water is boiling, start cooking your pasta and set a time for 8-9 minutes. When it's done, drain the pasta water.
Hot Tip: Reserved pasta water is great for so many different things. So feel free to drain the pasta water into a large bowl and save it for later.
Make the toppings
While the pasta cooks, make the toppings.
Add olive oil to a large frying pan over medium heat. Cut a whole butternut squash into cubes. Once the pan and oil are hot, add the small squash cubes to the pan with ¼ cup of water. (You could use a cup of pasta water here for extra flavor.)
Cover the pan and cook squash for 5-7 minutes. When you are able to easily poke through butternut squash with a fork or spatula, it's fully cooked and you're ready for the next step.
Add about 4 cups of kale, ripped into about 1-inch pieces with the stalks discarded.
Cover again for 2 minutes to wilt the kale. Remove the kale and butternut squash from the pan and place them in a bowl to the side.
Make the Cream Sauce
Using the pan from the kale and squash, melt butter. Once almost melted add garlic and flour. Stir the flour into the melted butter until completely absorbed.
Then add half of the heavy cream and whisk together. As the creamy begins to thicken, add parmesan cheese and whisk to combine.
Add the remaining heavy cream and more if needed to have the desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Then, in a large bowl add pasta and sauce and toss to coat pasta with sauce. The sauce should not be heavy over the pasta, just lightly coating it.
Then add butternut squash, walnuts, cranberries and kale. GENTLY toss everything together. Serve immediately or store in an air-tight container to be able to serve later.
What to Serve with Butternut Squash Pasta
I love to serve my favorite pasta dishes with plenty of cheesy garlic bread. It's the best side dish because one can never have too many tasty carbs, right?
How to Store Leftover Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta
Place leftover pasta into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. I do not recommend freezing this recipe, as the butternut squash could likely become mushy after being thawed.
To reheat, place into a pot of the stovetop and heat over medium-low heat until warm. Don't stir too much or you could mush the butternut squash.
Tips for Success
- Once the butternut squash is fork tender, it is ready. Don't overcook the squash or it will become a mushy mess.
- Follow the package instructions on the pasta box for the exact timing of the particular pasta you are cooking.
- Don't over-mix the pasta ingredients. Just gently toss everything together so that the sauce is an even, light coating, on the pasta, squash, and other toppings.
This tasty veggie with a subtle nutty flavor is loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It has been known to have anti-inflammatory benefits as well, and is low calorie and loaded with fiber. This superfood veggie is definitely a healthy choice!
One cup of cooked squash has about 4 grams of sugar. This natural sugar source comes in small amounts and makes butternut squash have a slightly sweet flavor.
More Pasta Recipes
- Easy Pasta Salad without Mayo
- Lemon Orzo Pasta
- One Pot Prosciutto Pesto Feta Pasta
- Quick and Easy Minestrone Soup
- Penne Al Salmone
If you make and love this recipe, please leave a ★★★★★ review below! It means so much to me when you try my recipes, and I'd love to know how it goes. Please leave a comment below if you have any questions.
- 4 cups uncooked Barilla medium shells pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups cubed butternut squash, fresh preferred
- 4 cups kale
- ½ cup low sugar cranberries
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
For the sauce
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons garlic
- 1 tablespoons flour
- 8 oz heavy cream
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Add olive oil to a large frying pan on medium heat
- At the same time, boil a medium pot of water
- Once pan and oil are hot, add butternut squash to pan with a ¼ cup of water or less
- Cover pan and cook squash for 5-7 minutes, be careful not to overcook!
- Once butternut squash is starting to be cooked through (you should be able to poke with a fork or spatula easily but the squash isn't mushy), add about 4 cups of kale, ripped into about 1 inch pieces with the stalks discarded
- Cover again for 2 minutes to wilt kale
- Remove kale and butternut squash from pan and place in a bowl to the side
- Now start cooking your Barilla Medium Shells pasta and set a time for 8-9 minutes
- Using pan from kale and squash, melt butter
- Once almost melted add garlic and flour
- Stir flour into butter until completely absorbed
- Add half of the heavy cream and whisk together
- As it begins to thicken, add parmesan cheese and whisk to combine
- Add the remaining heavy cream and more if needed to have the desired consistency
- Add salt and pepper to taste
- In a large bowl add pasta and sauce and toss to coat pasta with sauce - the sauce should not be heavy over the pasta, just lightly coating
- Then add butternut squash, walnuts, cranberries and kale and GENTLY toss pasta together
- Serve immediately or store in an air tight container to be able to serve later
Be careful not to overcook the squash. You can use fresh squash, cut out of the skin after the pulp is removed. You can also find prepackaged butternut squash at Target or other grocery stores.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 392Total Fat: 21g