Sheri Castle: Pasta with Roasted Winter Squash in Browned Butter, Sage, and Hazelnut Sauce

Pasta with Roasted Winter Squash in Browned Butter, Sage, and Hazelnut Sauce

This is one impressive pasta dish. It has layers of flavor and bright colors that look gorgeous served in a big pasta bowl. Browned butter is a classic sauce for pasta filled with winter squash, such as tortellini, cannelloni, or ravioli. This dish has those same flavors.

Perhaps the only thing better than butter is browned butter. Butter is made up of water, milk solids, and butterfat. When it’s browned, the water cooks away and the milk solids turn toasty brown and aromatic. This magic can happen only with real butter, so don’t try it with margarine or butter blends.

I love to use aged Gouda cheese in this recipe. The flavor of amber-colored aged Gouda is rich and nutty with hints of caramel and butterscotch. It’s delicious with the sweet squash and hazelnuts. It’s easy to find in well-stocked stores, but the familiar, reliable flavor of excellent Parmesan is also good.

Makes 6 to 8 servings


3 pounds winter squash, such as red kuri or butternut, peeled and seeded
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound uncooked orecchiette pasta (or other short, ridged pasta)
10 ounces baby spinach
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1/2 cup coarsely chopped, skinned hazelnuts, toasted
1 cup freshly grated aged Gouda, Parmesan, or other hard grating cheese


1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Cut the squash into 3/4-inch cubes and spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with foil. Drizzle with the oil. Roast until tender, about 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, cover with foil to keep warm, and set aside.
3. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and return to the pot. Add the spinach and toss with tongs so that the heat of the pasta wilts the spinach. Add the squash and gently toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, cover with foil to keep warm, and set aside.
4. Melt the butter in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Let the butter cook, gently swirling the pan often, until the butter is covered in white foam and begins to brown in the center, 2 to 3 minutes. It will smell like buttered toast. Remove the pan from the heat and continue to gently swirl the pan so that the butter doesn’t burn. Drop in the sage and nuts, which will bubble furiously at first. As soon as the sizzling stops, pour the browned butter over the pasta and squash and toss gently to combine. Sprinkle with the cheese and serve at once.

Variation: You can replace both the winter squash and the pasta with spaghetti squash. The larger and more mature the squash, the more the flesh will look like spaghetti. Use a fork to pull out the strands into a large bowl. Toss the hot squash with the spinach and finish the recipe as usual, picking up with Step 3.


Sheri Castle is a food writer and cooking instructor based in Chapel Hill, N.C. Visit the author’s website here. Become a fan of her book on Facebook here, or follow the author on Twitter @shericastle.

Recipes from The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers’ Markets, Roadside Stands, and CSA Farm Boxes by Sheri Castle. Copyright © 2011 by Sheri Castle.