Nothing says cozy like curling up with a big ol’ bowl of noodles. These days, after getting home from work, I have all of ten seconds before I end up in my (very) well-worn sweatpants. And after that, there’s a zero percent chance that I’ll leave the house to pick up groceries for dinner. Thankfully, this Butternut Squash Pasta is something you can make from even the saddest looking fridge. What started as a way for me to avoid the grocery store, has now entered our regular rotation as an easy weeknight pasta - grocery shopping optional.
The concept behind this recipe is pretty simple. The base is pasta, and to that we add a source of protein (chickpeas), a colorful veg (butternut squash), some greens (spinach), and then tie everything together with seasonings that you likely already have laying around. The sauce is made from garlic-infused olive oil, which feels both luscious and light at the same time. Olive oil adds subtle flavor, and is something almost everyone already has at home. As a nice addition to the pasta, it’s best to serve this dish with toasted breadcrumbs for garnish. Since this dish is vegan, the toasted breadcrumbs are a delicious and slightly-salty garnish that functions much like a cheese would.
When it comes to pasta, a typical “serving size” is usually a lot less than what we can (and do) eat. And while it’s mighty delicious, overloading on noodles can often make you want to lay down and take a nap. Not bad for a lazy weekend, but not the most productive for a weekday. I was determined to find a way to cut back on the noodles, without feeling like half of them were missing. Turns out, that by adding other filling items to the pasta, such as roasted butternut squash and chickpeas, you can actually feel full on a lot less noodles. The butternut squash is a great source of fiber; and, the protein from the chickpeas will also help you feel fuller for longer. This combo makes for a great way to indulge in pasta, without going through the whole box - AND getting your veggies in at the same time. Sounds like a win-win to me, don’t you think?
Butternut squash is a great vegetable to keep around at home. It can be stored for weeks (even months), so you don’t need to stress about cooking it right away. Roasting the squash brings out its natural sweetness, and the golden bread edges make it super flavorful. Most of the squash sold at the store are bigger/heavier than the one pound you’ll need for this recipe, so you can also roast off a second tray of the extras to use throughout the week. Roasted squash is a great addition to salads and grain bowls, or you can even blend it into soup. Just make sure you scale up the oil, if you’re roasting extra, as it facilitates browning in the oven and makes roasted veggies taste better! If you’re filling your oven with squash or other veggies, it helps to turn your oven into “convection” mode if it has one. It helps with circulation as veggies release a fair bit of moisture in the oven. You may also wish to rotate the trays for even baking.
Butternut Squash Pasta with Toasted Breadcrumbs
Butternut Squash Pasta
- 1 lb (454 g) butternut squash, cubed (about ½-inch) (about 3 cups)
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
- ½ to ¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 red onion, diced (about 2 cups)
- 8 oz dried spaghetti (gluten free if needed)
- 3 cups baby spinach
- 1 (15 oz/14 fl oz/398 ml) can chickpeas, rinsed (see note 1)
- Black pepper (to taste)
- Flat leaf parsley (for garnish)
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs (gluten free if needed)
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Preheat: Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Roast Squash: Scatter squash on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of the salt. Bake until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes, flipping halfway.
- Toast Breadcrumbs: Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add breadcrumbs and onion powder. Cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in salt.
- Cook pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta al dente, according to package directions. Reserve ¾ cups of pasta water before draining.
- Make sauce: Meanwhile, give the skillet a quick wipe, add the remaining 5 tablespoons olive oil and red pepper flakes. Warm over medium-low heat. Add red onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until slightly golden at the edges, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low to keep warm.
- Combine: Add pasta to sauce and toss to coat. Stir in spinach, chickpeas, ½ cup of the reserved pasta water, and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Cook until the spinach is wilted and chickpeas are warm, about 2 minutes. If needed, add up to an additional ¼ cup of reserved pasta water to bring everything together. Scatter in the butternut squash, taste and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley and toasted breadcrumbs.
- Chickpeas: You can use home-cooked chickpeas instead of canned: 1 can (15 oz/14 fl oz/398 ml) = 1.5 cups of cooked chickpeas.