Last night was the first night that really felt like winter to me. I was craving something comforting for dinner and pasta is the quintessential comfort food for me. This recipe combines many comforting flavors, especially for the fall and winter seasons. Butternut squash, Tuscan kale, and spicy sausage make up the backbone of this dish and the flavors go perfectly together.
What I love most about this dish is that the butternut squash actually becomes the sauce for the pasta. It’s pureed with chicken stock, mixed with some half and half and parmesan cheese and simmered until it becomes thick and creamy. I saw this idea on one of Rachael Ray’s shows and thought it was genious. I love butternut squash but I’ve never thought to turn it into a sauce for pasta. I bet you could also use canned pumpkin puree as a substitute if you didn’t have butternut squash on hand. This recipe has many different components and does require a number of steps and ingredients but it is really quite simple to follow and it’s so worth it! I’ve broken down the ingredients and recipe into two parts – making the squash sauce, and assembling the rest of the dish (the pasta, kale & sausage).
This pasta dish is the perfect dish for fall. It’s not a dish I would make in the summer and spring but for those cold fall and winter nights this recipe is incredibly hearty and comforting.
Ingredients for the squash part of the dish:
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks (about 3 cups of uncooke butternut squash)
1.5 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 pinch of ground nutmeg
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
Ingedients for the rest of the dish:
1 lb. uncooked whole grain penne pasta
4 spicy Italian chicken sausage links
4 cloves of minced garlic
5 oz. tuscan kale (about 3 cups)
salt & pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
For the butternut squash sauce:
1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
2. Toss the squash with olive oil, garlic salt and pepper and line in a single layer on a baking sheet.
3. Bake for 30 minutes at 425.
4. When the squash is done, move to a food processor. Add 1.5 cups of low sodium chicken stock to the squash and pulse until smooth. Turn your oven to 400 degrees (this is for the sausage links in the second part of the recipe).
5. Heat a sauce pan over medium low heat and add the squash puree to the pan. Add in 1 cup of cream and stir to combine.
6. Add a pinch of nutmeg and 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese the squash and cream mixture. Stir to combine and let simmer over low heat until ready to use, stirring occasionally while you assemble the rest of the ingredients.
For assembling and finishing the dish:
1. Add the penne pasta to a pot of salted, boiling water and cook until al dente.
2. While the pasta cooks, lay the chicken sausage on a baking sheet and bake them in the oven at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until cooked through.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add in the minced garlic and let it cook for 1 minute (do not let it brown or burn). Add in the kale and sprinkle with salt, pepper and the red pepper flakes. Stir for 5-6 minutes until the kale has wilted. Turn off the heat and set the kale to the side for now.
4. When the pasta is finished, drain it and transfer it back to the pot it was cooking in.
5. When the sausage is done cooking, remove from the oven, let it rest for 5 minutes and then cut the links into slices.
6. Add the kale, sausage slices and butternut squash sauce to the pot with the pasta and mix well until everything is nicely combined.
7. Transfer the pasta mixture to a baking dish and top with 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese.
8. Turn your broiler on and put the baking dish in the oven a few inches away from the broiler. Let it broil for 4-5 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbling.
9. Serve in bowls and top with extra grated cheese if desired.