The most delicious fall pasta, with roasted squash, pasta shells and a thyme-infused garlic cream sauce.
This luscious pasta combines roasted kabocha squash in an incredibly savory creamy garlic sauce.
It’s just the kind of comfort food pasta recipe we crave, right along with an easy, totally delicious Pappardelle with Portobello Mushroom Ragu.
Italian Pumpkin pastas
Italians, especially in the Veneto, have a long tradition of making pastas and risottos with zucca that have pale to dark green skin.
I’ve always loved the contrast of creamy pasta with pumpkin or butternut squash.
The natural sweetness of the vegetable combined with ingredients like cream and aromatic herbs is delicious and really luxurious.
But there’s more to pumpkins than those perfectly round orange specimens (think jack-o’-lanterns) which are actually a variety called sugar pumpkin.
Which pumpkin to use for pumpkin pasta
Try butternut squash to make this recipe.
Or, if you’re lucky to find winter squashes at your local farmer’s market, Blue Hubbard is another great variety to look for.
As for the familiar pumpkins we see in the fall…
They might be good for decorating around Halloween, but they don’t really taste very good to eat.
That’s because they’re bred to look pretty on front stoops and scattered around hay bales.
Kabocha is the pumpkin I look forward to when fall rolls around, at least for cooking purposes.
It’s a Japanese winter squash variety with beautiful, dense, deep-orange flesh that cooks up velvety and firm-textured.
Heads up — I’ve noticed that many grocery stores sell 1-pound bags of cut-up frozen kabocha!
That means making this recipe is that much easier.
How to cut and peel a kabocha squash:
If you do have a whole squash, here’s how to deal with it:
- Set the squash on a kitchen towel on a cutting board.
- Pull off the stem (or just leave it on if it’s firmly attached).
- Insert the tip of a heavy (sharp!) chef’s knife at a 45-degree angle at the stem.
- See-saw the knife while very firmly moving the knife downward. Repeat on the other side of the squash.
- Remove the seeds from each half with a spoon.
- Slice each half into wedges. Peel the squash with a swivel peeler or use your knife: lay each wedge on its side and shave off the skin as close to the flesh as you can with your chef’s knife.
More fall dishes to love:
- Rigatoni with Delicata Squash
- Harvest Vegetable Salad with Chimichurri Sauce
- Creamy Butternut Squash Soup (Dairy-free)
Pumpkin Pasta in Parmesan Garlic Cream Sauce
- 2 pounds (900 g) kabocha squash, approximately half of 1 medium kabocha or butternut squash
- 1/4 cup (40 g) finely chopped onion
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) heavy whipping cream
- 4 whole garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 2 sprigs thyme, plus 1 teaspoon chopped
- 3/4 cup (75 g) grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 8 ounces (225 g) dried pasta shells
- 1 1/2 cups (100 g) baby kale or spinach leaves
- Peel the squash, remove the seeds and cut into 1-inch chunks.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Combine the squash and onion on a large rimmed baking sheet. Toss with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 10 or 12 grinds of black pepper. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake 25 minutes. Remove the foil and stir the squash around with a spatula. Roast 15 minutes more, or until the squash is tender and lightly browned.
- Pour the cream into a saucepan. Drop in the garlic cloves and thyme sprigs and bring to a simmer — lower the heat and watch that it doesn't boil over. Simmer 20 minutes, until the cream is slightly reduced and the garlic is soft. Remove from the heat and steep 10 minutes, then remove the garlic and thyme. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 cup of the cheese. Transfer the sauce to a serving bowl with the butter and keep warm.
- Bring a 6 quart pot of water to a boil with 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and add to the bowl with the sauce.
- Add the squash and baby greens to the bowl and gently stir everything together until evenly coated with the sauce. Serve with the remaining cheese and chopped thyme sprinkled over the top.