Sausage and Butternut Squash Rigatoni is the perfect pasta for the cooler months. The flavors are rich and robust, filling you up and keeping you warm no matter how stupidly cold it is outside. Italian sausage gives the dish amazing flavors like fennel and garlic without having to add a variety of dried spices to the dish, and butternut squash gives the sauce a rich, creamy texture without adding tons of dairy products.
Italian sausage and butternut squash are a classic flavor pairing. The earthy, sweet notes of the squash are the perfect complement to the spicy and salty Italian sausage. I’ve also added a little bit of sage to the recipe to bring the flavors of this time of year to life. Be sure to use the sage sparingly though as it can really take over a dish quickly if you’re not careful. What can I say, sage is a bit of an overbearing bitch if you don’t keep her in check.
What really makes this pasta dish unique is the preparation of the butternut squash.
I love to roast squash and that’s usually how I prepare it, but for this recipe I wanted the butternut to act as the thickening agent for the sauce and give that luxurious mouthfeel that we all love in a pasta sauce.
So instead of roasting, I boiled the butternut squash in chicken stock until tender and then use the reduced chicken stock and cooked butternut as the basis for my sauce. As the butternut squash breaks down, it releases some of its starch into the chicken stock helping to thicken the sauce. Also, as you boil the butternut, the chicken stock reduces by about half, amplifying the chicken flavors and tightening the structure up.
Once the chicken stock and squash have cooked to perfection, you only need a little bit of heavy cream to finish up the sauce. Given this pasta easily makes 6 big servings, the calories from that one cup of heavy cream become quite minimal.
The last ingredients that really makes this sauce are the grated parmesan and the lemon. The grated parmesan gives wonderful salty and nutty flavors to the sauce and acts as the final thickening agent for the sauce. The lemon was something I added to the recipe after tasting the first trial.
So many of the autumn and winter flavors are so rich and dense that they can almost come across as muddy. The lemon heightens the other flavors in the dish and keeps you coming back for another bite instead of feeling like the dish is too heavy. You really don’t taste the distinct flavor of lemon. It just adds a brightness to the dish that is much needed.
Sausage and Butternut Squash Rigatoni can be eaten as soon as its ready, but it is also a great make ahead dish.
The recipe takes about 45 minutes to prepare so it’s a totally feasible weeknight dinner, but who doesn’t love putting a casserole in the oven after a busy day and doing whatever makes you happy instead while dinner is making itself in the oven. It’s wonderful!
Just as wonderful as the fact that today represents post number 50! This feels like such a big milestone. I launched Cooking and Cussing a little over 100 days ago so it feels like an awesome triumph to have reached 50 posts so quickly! To celebrate, I decided to try some new locations for photos, and Gus was really intrigued by both the Italian sausage and having food outside.
I hope you get a chance to try this amazing pasta recipe. Sausage and Butternut Squash Rigatoni is a wonderful comfort food that your entire clan is sure to love. I can’t wait to hear what you think!
This may seem like a one-trick pony, but I use mine ALL THE TIME. It makes breaking up ground meat in a saute pan so fast and easy!
Fresh ground nutmeg is amazing and so different from what you buy already ground. Whole nutmeg will keep in the freezer for up to three years, and this is a convenient way to store and process it.
Sausage and Butternut Squash Rigatoni
- 8 oz rigatoni
- 1 butternut squash
- 1 lb ground Italian sausage
- 2 tsp fresh sage
- 1 yellow onion
- 4 C chicken stock
- 1/2 C C grated parmesan
- 1 lemon
- 1 C heavy cream
- 2 Tb fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
- 2 Tb olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- pinch fresh ground nutmeg*
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season the water with a generous tablespoon of salt.
- While the water comes to a boil, peel the butternut squash then split down the middle vertically and remove the pulp and seeds from the inside. Once cleaned, dice into 1-inch pieces. Finely dice the onion and set aside. Finely mince the sage.
- Place the butternut squash in a large heavy bottom saucepan. Cover the squash with chicken stock and heat the pan over high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for about 15-20 minutes or until tender. You won’t be draining off the chicken stock. It will become part of the sauce so don’t worry. It will reduce considerably as the squash cooks.
- Once the salted water has come to a boil, add the rigatoni and cook until al dente based on package instructions. Drain the pasta once cooked and coat with a bit of olive oil to avoid sticking. Set aside.
- As the squash cooks, heat 2 Tb olive oil in a large nonstick saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion to the preheated pan and let it soften for about 3 minutes.
- Add the ground sausage and break up into bite size pieces. You can use a wooden spoon to break up the meat, but if you want a super efficient tool for the job, check out the ground meat chopper that I’ve linked to above. It’s an awesome kitchen gadget!
- Season and sausage with salt and pepper. Cook the pork until browned and cooked through. Turn off the heat and set aside.
- Once the butternut squash is fall apart tender and the chicken stock has reduced, add the heavy cream and ground nutmeg to the pot. Continue to boil for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally until the sauce has reduced by about half.
- Then add the juice of 1 lemon, sage and 1/4 C of grated parmesan (reserve 1/4 for garnish) and stir until cheese is melted and totally combined. Boil for another 2-3 minutes stirring constantly until the sauce thickens up to a nice creamy consistency.
- Add the sausage mixture and pasta to the sauce and mix well to combine. Roughly chop the fresh parsley and add to the pasta. Mix well.
- At this point, the pasta is ready to serve or you can make the dish ahead. If eating right away, garnish with the remaining 1/4 C grated parmesan and enjoy!
- If you’re making ahead, pour the pasta mixture into a lightly greased 9″ x 13″ casserole dish. Top with the grated parmesan and cover with foil. The dish will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days before baking. When ready to eat, place the covered dish into a preheated oven at 350 degrees and cook for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15 or until golden and bubbly.