Winter squash are a hearty favorite in the fall and winter. We love acorn and spaghetti squash simply with butter, salt, and pepper, and butternut squash lends itself to a variety of dishes. Butternut squash risotto is at the top of that list, but today, I’m combining roasted cubes with pasta, arugula, garlic and a light cream sauce. Oh, and bacon! I love any food that you can eat in a bowl.
There are a number of different versions of winter squash with pasta or rice. Here are a few to give you more inspiration:
Martha Stewart’s Butternut Squash Risotto is my go-to risotto in the winter
This is a rather easy dish, but the hardest task is the first one—cutting the skin off the hard squash. Because of all it’s curves, it can be dangerous wielding a big knife and trying not to lose too much precious squash in the peeling. I have had no luck with paring knives or vegetable peelers with butternuts, but I have a process that works well for me, shown in these pictures with pop-up captions:
Rigatoni with Butternut Squash
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 lb rigatoni or penne pasta, boiled for about 10 minutes to al dente stage
3/4-1 lb thick-sliced bacon, browned, drained, and crumbled (save 3 tablespoons of the fat for the sauce)
1.5 cup chicken broth
1.5 cup half and half or cream
3 tablespoons flour to thicken the sauce
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced or grated
2-3 cups arugula, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Prepare the squash:
Preheat oven to 350°
Toss 3/4 of the diced squash in olive oil and roast until tender and browned, about 30-40 minutes. I had a total of about 5 cups of squash.
Make the sauce:
- While the squash is roasting, begin the sauce by simmering the remaining diced squash in the chicken broth until tender enough to mash into a puree. Add more broth if it has cooked down. This mixture is half your sauce and the mashed squash helps to thicken the whole thing.
- In another pan, cook the bacon, drain it on paper towels and crumble into 1 inch pieces. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat and sauté the onion and garlic for about 2 minutes; add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the flour until well blended, then stir in the half and half and the broth/squash purée. Add the arugula all at once and continue to stir until the sauce is slightly thickened. The arugula will wilt quickly. This should be a thin sauce, rather than a heavy white sauce. Add more broth or half and half to reach desired consistency.*
- Toss cooked pasta in a large bowl with roasted squash, bacon, sauce, and Parmesan cheese.
*You could skip the flour thickener in step 2 and rely only on the pureed squash as a thickener. The benefit of a little flour is that it binds the ingredients together and prevents separation.