Orecchiette with Roasted Butternut Squash, Kale, and Caramelized Red Onion

By • November 21, 2010 36 Comments

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Author Notes: This recipe is for the butternut squash lover. It was inspired by a pasta dish that I had at an Italian restaurant in Charlottesville called Tavola (which is outstanding if you are ever in the area). Their version had less butternut squash and a little more cream. I love butternut squash, but if you don't have the same mild obsession that I do, only roast the squash and add it at the very end so it retains it shape. I love this dish both ways.Plum Pie

Food52 Review: WHO: Plum Pie works in media, marketing, and sales in Texas. And -- you guessed it -- she loves pie.
WHAT: Yet another reason to love squash (and kale, and adorably shaped pasta).
HOW: Roast squash in the oven while you caramelize red onions on the stove. Sauté even more squash with garlic and kale, then add chicken broth, cream, and white wine to make a sauce. Mix the sauce with some cooked orecchiette, the oven-roasted squash, and the onions, then top with goat cheese, Parmesan, and sage.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Call us crazy, but we find that on its own, roasted butternut squash can often be too sweet for savory dishes. But pairing it with spicy cayenne, pleasantly bitter kale, and plenty of cheese reminds us we’re eating dinner -- not dessert. Plus, this recipe lets us enjoy squash both intact, as caramelized, oven-roasted cubes, and broken down a little farther into a creamy pasta sauce. Use vegetable broth to make this dish meat-free.
The Editors

Serves 4

  • 1 large butternut squash, cut into small cubes, divided
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper, for seasoning
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 pound orecchiette
  • 1 or 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chicken broth, divided
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 ounce goat cheese, optional
  • 1 tablespoon chopped sage
  • parmesan cheese, to serve
  1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Toss all but 1 cup of the butternut squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, pepper, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and the nutmeg. Roast until butternut squash pieces are tender and caramelized, about 30 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan over low heat. Cook sliced red onions until caramelized, about 30 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Heat a pot of water over high heat until boiling. Salt water generously. Cook orecchiette according to package instructions until al dente.
  4. Meanwhile, heat another tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy pan over medium-high heat. Cook the remaining cup of butternut squash for approximately 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add 1/2 cup of the chicken broth and cook until broth is almost completely absorbed.
  5. Remove the middle stems from the kale and roughly chop the leaves. Add kale to butternut squash and stir until kale has softened. Add caramelized red onions.
  6. Add white wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add remaining chicken broth and reduce, about 10 minutes.
  7. Turn heat to low and add the heavy cream. When the pasta is al dente, add it to the pan with the sauce. Add the roasted butternut squash.
  8. Loosen sauce with pasta water if needed. Sprinkle with goat cheese (optional), sage, and Parmesan cheese.
  • This recipe is a Wildcard Contest Winner!
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More Great Recipes: Pasta|Appetizers|Entrees|Plums|Kale

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Comments (36) Questions (0)


8 months ago Theris Williams

I really would like to try this recipe, but I'm a newly diagnosed diabetic, the heavy cream and wine are a concern for me. What would you suggest I substitute it with. Thanks Theris


8 months ago Plum Pie

Hi Theris! You could definitely leave out the wine and maybe add a little more chicken broth. I have tried this with greek yogurt instead of heavy cream and it is really good. Or just leave it out altogether. I'm sure it would still taste great without. I hope you enjoy it!


8 months ago Ilianna Padilla

This was so delicious! Although when served it did not look as presentable as the photo. My friends and family truly enjoyed this recipe.


8 months ago Lkw1080

What a delicious recipe! The use of the cayenne pepper provided a great contrast to the sweet butternut squash! I used more than a pinch and it provided perfect heat!


8 months ago pennyolsen

Making this twice in one week....changed it though. Vegetable broth and used power greens....added at the end when mixed with broth over Light Rotini. YUM Delish!


9 months ago shelley

This was the best past recipe I have ever made. The substituted tomato stock for the chicken stock and used bowtie pasta. We couldn't stop eating it! Thank you.


9 months ago Plum Pie

Wow, such a compliment! I am so glad that you liked it!


9 months ago Katherin

This dish is delicious, yummy, amazing. I love it.


9 months ago Plum Pie

Thanks Katherin! I am so glad you like it!


9 months ago NancyS

This was great ..... I'm inhaling it and typing! I did try to lighten it up a bit and it was still delicious (might try vegetable broth the next time as suggested).


9 months ago Plum Pie

So glad that you enjoyed it NancyS!


9 months ago Ida-Maria Skavhaug

Made this a couple of days ago and it was so tasty. The flavour of the sage went really well with the butternut squash (I used a little more than was called for). I'll be making this again!


9 months ago Plum Pie

I'm so glad you liked it!


9 months ago Sue Kappler

Mine is looking a lot saucier w/the cream added, but it's not put together yet. A few substitutions based on available ingredients. Using collard greens since market was out of kale, mead instead of white wine and a loca garlic marinated feta cheese. Should be very flavorful meatless supper! Awesome!


10 months ago Dianna Majors Davis

We just moved from Charlottesville, but Tavola was one of my very favorites! Excited to make this tonight!


10 months ago Plum Pie

I hope you like it Dianna! Tavola is my absolute favorite! I miss being able to go there!


10 months ago Dave Moss

Has anyone tried adding bacon or pork sausage?


10 months ago Plum Pie

It looks like someone below tried bacon with success and I bet sausage would be delicious. I might try that addition actually! :)


9 months ago Dave Moss

We used pancetta, which I rendered then added the onions to the pan. Delicious and definitely a keeper!


10 months ago Eva

I made this tonight and was truly amazed at how delicious it was! I seasoned it a bit more with salt and pepper and I also added toasted pine nuts. Delish!


10 months ago Plum Pie

I am so glad that you liked it!! Pine nuts sound delicious with it!


10 months ago m.izzy



10 months ago Traci Doyle

Just made this and WOW, was it great! Had to substitute pumpkin and a sweet potato for the butternut squash, and bok choy for the kale (couldn't find either in my local market here in Lausanne), but it was still great! Adding goat cheese was an inspiration. This dish had TONS of flavor. Will definitely make again.


10 months ago Plum Pie

Thanks Traci! I am so glad that you enjoyed it!!


10 months ago Harriet Lobegeiger

Making this tonight! Can't wait to try it, it looks incredible!


10 months ago Amanda

Made this tonight for dinner without the goat cheese and it was SO delicious! An absolute hit in my house. Even my two year old gobbled up every last bite!


10 months ago Amanda White

because I like to trash things up, I added in some rendered bacon and dried cranberries to the caramelized onion, and this was out of control amazing.


10 months ago tota

Can this be done without the heavy cream? Thats just something we really try to avoid.....how about greek yogurt in place of?


10 months ago Plum Pie

Hi tota! Yes, I'm sure greek yogurt would be great. I often substitute it for heavy cream in recipes. I haven't tried it in this one but I'm sure it would be great. I would add it off the heat. Let me know how it turns out!


10 months ago judyep

What's the point of roasting some of the squash and sautéing the rest?


10 months ago Kara Stokes

Made it and loved it! It did take me quite a while (1.5 hrs) but I think that's just me being slow. the sauce was outstanding, and the goat cheese is a must.