This recipe is my oldest daughter’s all-time favorite! The original inspiration for combining sausage with butternut squash was taken from the Rachael Ray show but over the years I have tweaked it to make it my own. Warning: this recipe is quite time-consuming and delicious; do not make this meal for anyone you do not love or do not want hanging around your house (lol) because those who enjoy this meal will want to keep coming back to your table. It’s like serving a piece of your heart in one big yummy bowl & it never disappoints 🙂 Bon appetit!
Bowtie Pasta with Chicken Sausage & Butternut Squash
Prep Time: A heck of a lot of time if you’re chopping your own squash!
Cook time: About an hour for the squash, probably 20 minutes hands-on time for the rest
- Butternut Squash (2-4 small squashes or 1 very large squash)
- A sprinkling of nutmeg (I use fresh nutmeg and grate it using a microplane/zester)
- Salt & Pepper
- 1 large onion (white or sweet), thinly sliced or diced
- 4 fat garlic cloves, pressed or grated
- 1lb chicken sausage (links or ground sausage, you can also use pork sausage if you prefer)
- 1 tsp dried fennel seed
- 1lb of bowtie pasta (or other short cut pasta like penne or baby rigatoni)*
- 1/4 cup freshly grated/shredded parmesan, plus more for serving (I use Trader Joe’s Toscana Cheese block)
- 1TBSP dried parsley
- OPTIONAL: Chicken stock, about 1/2 cup. Otherwise, you can reserve the starchy cooking water upon draining the pasta.
Let’s do this!
1.) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is warming up, start chopping the squash into small cubes (about 1/2-1 inch in size). If buying pre-cut squash, obviously you can skip this step or cut the squash into smaller, more uniform, sizes. You can also use more squash than suggested above if you want to double up on the veg.
2.) Once all of the squash is chopped, toss with 1 TBSP of EVOO, salt and pepper, and the “secret” ingredient – nutmeg – and place on a greased baking sheet or a large baking pan. You can use ground nutmeg but I always buy whole nutmeg and freshly grate it with a microplane over the squash. I believe the nutmeg tastes better this way, but that is just my humble opinion 🙂 You can find whole nutmeg in the bulk spice sections of your local spice shop or grocery store. (I usually buy a few from Sprouts or Fresh Thyme and store them in a ziplock bag to preserve the freshness.) Bake in the oven for about an hour, give or take 5-10 minutes. Check on the squash and stir around about every 15-20 minutes to prevent burning or the squash sticking to the pan. I like my squash to be more on the crispy side so I usually let it cook for closer to 75 minutes or bump up the oven temp to 450 if I’m short on time.
3.) While the squash is baking, start chopping the onion into thinly sliced strips (or if you prefer, you can dice the onion). Add the onion to a large pan, heated over low-medium heat, along with EVOO (a few swirls of the pan, about a 1/2 TBSP). Cook low and slow for about 15-20 minutes, or until the onions deepen in color and become caramelized. Stir occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.
4.) While the onions are slowly cooking and the squash is in the oven (reminder: have you stirred the squash? Because…mom brain!), fill up a large pot of water and begin to boil it for the pasta. Once the water is boiling, add a large handful of salt (this is your only chance to season the pasta itself and this step is especially important if you’re using the cooking water to make the “sauce”).
5.) Once the water has started to boil and you added the salt to the pot, go back to your onion pan and add the sausage. If you are using links, remove the casings. (I like to use the Trader Joe’s Sicilian Chicken Sausage Links and squeeze the sausage out of the casing and directly into the pan.) Use a potato masher or other cooking utensil to smash or break apart the sausage, incorporating the sausage with the onions. Season with dried fennel seed, salt and pepper, the freshly grated garlic, and a hit of EVOO (if the sausage is starting to stick to the pan). Allow the sausage to cook on medium to low heat for about 10 minutes.
6.) Check your squash…is it done yet or getting close to done? You may want to “up” the temp, remove the squash from the oven to rest or turn off your oven completely and allow the squash to hang out in there while you finish the meal.
7.) This is when things start to get crazy because you’re about 10 minutes away from everything finishing up. Check the cook time for your dried pasta and set a timer. Drop your pasta. While the pasta is cooking, continue to smash the sausage/onion mixture, stirring to combine. Start to grate or shred your parmesan into a bowl. Set aside. If you’re using pre-shredded or pre-grated, skip this step. I always, always, always use a block – specifically, I use the Trader Joe’s Black Pepper Toscana Cheese block but if you don’t have a TJ’s nearby, go for a black pepper parm block if you can find it at your local grocery store or any good quality parmesan block will do.
8.) Alright, so the sausage/onion mixture should be about done by now. Loosen up this mixture, if needed, by adding the chicken stock or a bit of pasta cooking water. The squash should be done as well if it wasn’t done already. The cheese is shredded and you’re just waiting on the pasta to finish up. Once your pasta timer goes off, drain your pasta but keep about 1/4 cup of the starchy pasta water. Return the pasta back to the pot along with the small cup of pasta water. Add the sausage/onion mixture to the pasta and stir. Add at least a 1/4 cup of cheese along with the parsley. Add more stock or pasta water if you want the pasta to be more “wet.”
9.) Divide pasta into small bowls or one large serving bowl. Top with the squash and if you wish, sprinkle more parsley on top for serving presentation. Add more cheese, as desired.
10.) Serve immediately and prepare yourself to indulge in the YUM that is this meal!
*OPTION TO MAKE THIS DISH LOWER IN CARBS: When my husband has chosen to pursue a low-carb/keto diet, I have made this dish using thinly sliced baby bella or white mushrooms instead of pasta. Simply sauté the sliced mushrooms in a pan coated with EVOO, over medium heat, for about 10-15 minutes (time dependent on the amount of mushrooms used; I use at least 1lb). After you reach the 10 minute mark, season the mushrooms with salt and pepper, 2-4 garlic cloves, and a sprinkling of dried thyme. Stir to combine. NOTE: If using mushrooms in place of the pasta, you will not need as much liquid, if any, when combining the mushrooms with the sausage, onions and squash.