PastaMalia Howe

Penne with Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese

PastaMalia Howe
Penne with Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese

This is a goodie from my Food Network favorite, Giada De Laurentiis. The combination of flavors and textures are really pleasing. It is a hearty dish, and so beautiful that you will fool everyone into thinking you worked really hard when you didn't. I have adapted the goat cheese proportions, because if you used asmuch as she suggests, you'd taste nothing else. My version keeps the goat cheese flavor subtle, but still recognizable. The fresh basil is a must for color, and you need the walnuts (or some other toasted nut) for the texture.

Penne with Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese

-adapted from

*if you want some meat, toss in some cooked shrimp or rotisserie chicken with the pasta, or better yet, brown some Italian sausage. Squash and sausage work so well together.

  • 1 (2-pound) butternut squash, peeled and cubed (I used about half of a big one)
  • 1 onion, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound penne or other short pasta (I used whole wheat this time)
  • 4 oz log of goat cheese
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted (take the time to toast 'em in a dry skillet for about 5 minutes,please)
  • 1 c. fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus more to pass at the table.

Mix the squash and onion together and arrange in a single layer on a cooking sheet sprayed with cooking spray--you will probably need to use two baking sheets. If you crowd the squash too much it will steam and not roast. You want to roast.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bake for to 30 to 40 minutes until the vegetables are golden and cooked through. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat (you should always salt your pasta water until it tastes like the sea). Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve about 2 cups of the pasta water--this is important. It will help the sauce stick together. Put the pasta, goat cheese, and 1 cup of pasta water in a large serving bowl. Toss until the cheese has melted and forms a creamy sauce, or simply do this in the pasta pot--save yourself a dish to wash! Add the squash, onions, walnuts, and the basil. Toss well and season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with Parmesan. If you need a creamier sauce, gradually add a bit more of the pasta water.