Orecchiette With Roasted Butternut Squash, Kale, & Caramelized Red Onion

April 17, 2021
28 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 4
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

Test Kitchen Notes

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. —Food52

What You'll Need
  • 1 large butternut squash, cut into small cubes, divided
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 pound orecchiette
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves, 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 fresh 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • QueenOfGreen
  • magdalena
  • Laura Scott
    Laura Scott
  • Hollie Payne
    Hollie Payne
  • Hanna Clarke
    Hanna Clarke

56 Reviews

QueenOfGreen November 6, 2023
Added 4oz pancetta when cooking the 1c of butternut. Which honestly, I’m not understanding the point of that step? Also, recipe calls for 4T olive oil, but there’s only 3T in the instructions. Not sure where I lost the thread. Used the last T of oil to fry the sage leaves to put on top. Despite quirks with the recipe, it was delicious.
magdalena January 13, 2023
Deeelicious! I made this knowing I was lacking a couple of things and it was still so good! I used broccoli rabe instead of kale, whole milk instead of cream, and a variety of small squashes needing a job. Chef's kiss! Thank you!
Laura S. October 27, 2020
This was really good - the squash 2 ways is super clever - but I wasn't eating until 9:30 at night, even with every cheat in the book (pre-diced squash, pre-chopped and washed kale, pre-minced garlic). Use these shortcuts!! Also, I way upped the cayenne on the roasted squash and it worked out great, and I say that as a person with very low tolerance for spice. You'll want to add a little bit more kick to balance the sweetness of the onions. The best part about this was the colors - it was beautiful to make and to plate. I'd only try this again to show off at a dinner party though - not as fast as TikTok made it look!
Shirley C. October 4, 2019
Thought this was absolutely delicious. I substituted spinach for the kale but everything else the same. It did use quite a few cooking pots but I think it was worth it.
NXL September 27, 2019
The flavors of this dish were okay. The sauce was runny. The number of dirty pans to create one dish was ridiculous. I have made a similar, more flavorful dish in two pots.
AriadneCooks February 16, 2019
I enjoyed this, but will reduce the broth next time - my sauce was quite loose. I’ll skip boiling the heck out of the kale, too, and just add it before adding the heavy cream. I do wish the recipe specified how much squash to use - 1 pound? 3?
prash.cant.shush January 28, 2019
I think the pasta cooking step should be after step 4 or 5. It takes 5 min or so for the water to boil (less if you pour the contents of a recently boiled kettle into a pot already heating on the stove) and 10 min or so for the pasta to come to al dente consistency.
Michael G. December 3, 2018
So I ended up using 12oz of pasta because of the package size, and even though this is a great vegetarian meal I added grilled chicken and it was still amazing
Hollie P. November 10, 2018
This is a gourmet level pasta dish. Truly fall in a bowl. Make this - you will not regret it!
koc March 9, 2018
Fantastic! The depth of flavor is amazing. Already looking forward to making it again next week. Thanks!
Hanna C. November 6, 2017
Holy Yum!
Alyssa B. November 3, 2017
90 Minutes from start to finish(ing)...including eating! Upped the cayenne to 1/4 tsp for a bit of a kick. Really enjoyed the squash two ways, but I think next time I might puree the roasted bits for a creamier sauce, and chop the kale finer. I also used a goat cheese with lavender and fennel pollen (Cypress Grove's Purple Haze) which was so yum! I will definitely investigate the walnuts/pine nuts for next time though.
Amanda October 30, 2017
Loved this! One of the best Food52 recipes that I've done so far, though not a quick one. I agree with the other comments that walnuts would be a great addition and I used a couple extra dashes of cayenne to top it off, which was excellent!
erin January 18, 2017
Made this tonight and it was excellent. I realized too late we were out of leafy greens but carried on regardless and didn't miss them (though next time I'll certainly add them). The magic is in cooking the squash two different ways, so don't skip that - it adds nothing to the overall time, and you get the sauce that binds everything together as well as the texture and caramelized flavor of the baked pieces. Having neither stock, wine nor cream I just used water plus a bay leaf for the squash on the stovetop, then stirred in a spoonful of requeijao creamoso (a Brazilian cream cheese) at the end to emulsify. We had some walnuts, as several people recommended, and I think it needed that crunch. Pine nuts would work too. Highly recommended. Oh, and we ate all of it between the two of us!
Jane October 12, 2016
Yum! Made this last night but swapped regular pasta for bean pasta. I used Modern Table's lentil pasta. I also sautéed some leftover squash in some olive oil and truffle salt. Simple but delicious!
Michele September 23, 2016
I did not think this recipe was worth the effort. Total time was 90 minutes including peeling the squash and the step of sauteeing the squash with squash was too labor intensive. I've made similar recipe where the kale was added to roasting pan with squash, then squash and kale were mixed with heavy cream, parmesan and farfalle right before serving (sans carmelized onions). The dish was essentially the same with less work.
Shortrib March 29, 2016
Outstanding! This looked a bit fussy to me but actually came together quite quickly once butternut is roasted & onions caramelized. Depth of flavour is excellent. A wonderful surprise and perfect for a fall dinner... I made it with fusilli.
charliebarlie October 20, 2015
I finished eating this 5 minutes ago and I just had to write a comment to rave about how great it was!! I only had a small amount of squash left so I roasted that and substituted the baked squash by baked mushrooms. It was absolutely delicious!! It's a great vegetarian dish too because you don't even notice there's no meat or fish in it!
Emily L. October 12, 2015
I made this last night and it was so delicious! the roasted squash is amazing with the nutmeg and cayenne combo, I would probably do all of it like that next time :) I did substitute a coconut milk/almond milk vegan cheese a la Food 52's Vegan cookbook instead of the heavy cream and it was perfect!
Stephanie September 4, 2015
This is so good even without the addition of goat cheese. Next time I'll sprinkle with toasted walnuts in addition to the grated grana padano. Perfect fall dish!