Rich, creamy, with sweet, nutty undertones, you’ll want to keep this roasted butternut squash pasta sauce on regular rotation. You need just five ingredients for this savory, flavorful butternut squash recipe. The best part? It’s easy as anything to make on a weeknight. In this post, I’ll go over how you can make this easy squash pasta sauce plus tell you my favorite things to pair with butternut squash!
I don’t even bother fussing with an immersion blender for this one. I mash up the garlic and squash with a fork, then thin it out with pasta water. No fuss, no muss!
What does butternut squash pair well with?
Let’s talk butternut squash. This winter squash is a low-calorie, fiber-rich veggie that goes with just about anything. Its flavor is nutty and subtly sweet similar to pumpkin. Its uses are unlimited–from roasting, steaming, frying–or transformed into desserts, soups, or casseroles.
Because it brings with it sweet, nutty flavors, it pairs well with warm flavor profiles. Try it with:
- Herbs: Savory herbs like thyme, sage, and rosemary all do well to highlight the squash’s nutty flavors.
- Spices: Sweet, warming spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves accentuate the naturally occurring sweetness of butternut squash. Spicy, savory spices like chili powder, smoked paprika, or harissa are a nice counterbalance to its sweetness.
- Proteins: If you’re not vegetarian, butternut squash works well with roasted chicken, chorizo, or spicy sausage.
In this butternut squash recipe, I roast the squash first. Roasting butternut squash pulls out even more of its natural sweetness. The squash roasts with a whole head of garlic and plenty of fresh thyme to create a flavorful base for the sauce.
How to make this butternut squash pasta sauce recipe:
You will love how easy this recipe is to make! You only need five basic ingredients, including:
- One small butternut squash, about 1 pound
- A whole head of garlic (you won’t be kissing anyone after this meal!)
- Fresh thyme sprigs
- Pasta, I love shells for this but try it with rigatoni or even fettuccini!
- Heavy cream, if you’re vegan, you can omit the cream!
To make it, start by preparing the squash. Halve it lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, peel it, and then dice it into small cubes. Next, cut the top off a whole head of garlic. Place the squash in a large, ovenproof skillet. Drizzle with oil and then add the garlic, cut-side down and the thyme sprigs. Roast it at 400ºF. Check the garlic occasionally to ensure the tops of the cloves aren’t burning.
Once the squash is roasted and very soft, remove the skillet from the oven. Pop out the garlic cloves and return them to the skillet. Discard those thyme sprigs. Here, you can use a fork to mash up the sauce for a thick, somewhat textured sauce. Alternatively, you can blitz it with an immersion blender or transfer to a food processor if you like an extra smooth sauce.
Once everything is mashed together, add some pasta cooking water and the cream and simmer for 10 minutes. Throw in cooked pasta and toss to coat.
If you like, you can finish with a bit of fresh lemon juice to help cut the richness of the cream, but it’s not required! I finished with a touch of fresh parsley for a pop of color, but fresh chives would work too.
Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce
- Ovenproof skillet
- Large pot
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil
- 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
- 4–5 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 head garlic, top cut off
- 16 ounces shell pasta
- ¼ cup heavy cream, plus more if needed
- Juice from half a lemon, optional
- Fresh minced parsley or chives, optional, for garnish
- Salt and pepper to taste
Roast the butternut squash:
- Preheat oven to 400ºF.
- Place the diced squash and thyme sprigs in an ovenproof skillet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Season all over with salt and pepper. Nestle the head of garlic into the squash, cut side down.
- Transfer to the oven for 30–45 minutes, flipping once while cooking, until the squash is tender and browned. Check the garlic occasionally to ensure the tops aren’t burning.
Cook the pasta:
- Before the squash finishes roasting, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and the pasta. Cook until al dente. Scoop out 1 cup of pasta cooking water. Set it aside and then drain the pasta.
Finish the sauce:
- Remove the skillet from the oven. Transfer the garlic to a plate and let it cool. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs. Once the garlic is cool enough to handle, carefully pop the cloves out from the skin. Transfer the garlic to the skillet. Using a fork or potato masher, mash squash and garlic until mostly smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Add the pasta cooking water and cream to the skillet and stir until smooth. If needed, continue to thin out the sauce with more water, cream, or vegetable broth until the sauce reaches desired consistency. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Sauce the pasta:
- Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. Taste and season once more. Turn off the heat.
- Finish the pasta with a splash of lemon juice if you like. Divide between bowls and finish with freshly minced parsley or chives, if you like. Enjoy!