Kid Friendly Recipe: Pasta with Butternut Squash, Sausage and Pecans
This recipe is written by our Farm Foodie – Debra Dubief
Even though I don’t consciously think about it, when I am considering what to cook for dinner I am always looking at recipes through the lens of “will the whole family like it?” In addition to the kids’ idiosyncrasies, I have my own fuss factor – I want our dinners to be reasonably healthy, relatively quick and, of course, delicious.
So when I landed on a recipe for pasta with sausage and butternut squash that sounded divine, I did my usual scan to see how “kid-friendly” it was. It only took a couple minutes to make a few mental notes of changes: dust the butternut with smoked paprika (which my kids inexplicably love) instead of the nutmeg; serve the toasted pecans and sage leaves fried in butter on the side; switch out leaner chicken sausage for the Italian pork version called for and I’ll even use brown rice pasta to sneak in some whole grain goodness.
I managed to completely bastardized what I’m sure was a perfectly wonderful recipe in a matter of minutes all in the name of keeping peace. At the same time my kids were reminded they do like squash, experienced some new flavors and learned that brown rice pasta can be every bit as tasty as wheat. Other than a few moments of extra brain power, there was no more work involved than usual and I found a great new recipe. Dinner was a pleasure for all — which is exactly how I like it.
Below is my version of this recipe. You could easily leave the sage leaves fried in butter out altogether if you are in a hurry.
Adapted from Food & Wine
- 2 1/2 pounds butternut squash—peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice
- 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (sweet or hot)
- 1 Tbsp chopped sage, plus 20 whole leaves
- 1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
- 3 Tbsps unsalted butter
- 1 pound chicken sausage, casings removed (I used one with garlic and herbs)
- 1 pound brown rice Caserecce or Penne pasta (or sub regular wheat pasta)
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for serving
- Preheat the oven to 400°. On a large rimmed baking sheet, drizzle the squash with 2 tablespoons of oil and toss. Arrange in an even layer and season with salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Bake for about 40 minutes, until just tender. Add the chopped sage and toss.
- Meanwhile, put the pecans in a pie plate and bake for about 4 minutes, until toasted.
- In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the whole sage leaves and cook over moderate heat, turning once, until crisp, 2 minutes. Transfer the leaves to a plate and pour the butter into a bowl. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and the sausage to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat, breaking up the sausage, until no pink remains, 7 minutes.
- In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the sausage and melted butter and gradually stir in the cooking water over moderate heat. Gently fold in the squash, pecans (unless you want to serve on the side) and the 1/4 cup of cheese. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl. Scatter the sage on top and serve with more cheese.