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Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce with Red Lentil Pasta & Spinach

This simple, unusual recipe essentially uses cooked butternut squash as a pasta sauce. Trust me – it’s fantastic. To make it even healthier and more colorful, I used red lentil pasta and added greens. I like it with cinnamon (for sweetness), but you and your family may prefer fresh or dried herbs for a more savory version.

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash (or 1 package pre-peeled and pre-cut butternut squash)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • ¼-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme (optional)
  • 1-2 squirts sriracha sauce or 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Milk, plant milk, coconut milk, broth, or water
  • One 8-ounce package red lentil pasta (or any other pasta you like)
  • Fresh spinach (optional)

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cut a butternut squash in half, and scoop out the seeds (see note).
  3. Place the two halves, concave side down, on a foil- or parchment-lined baking sheet.
  4. Smush a light layer of olive oil over the squash, and sprinkle with salt & pepper*.
  5. Bake for one hour, or until very tender.
  6. If you use pre-cut squash, just toss with a little oil, salt & pepper. The cooking time will be much less – you just want the squash very tender.
  7. In the meantime, cook the pasta according to package directions, timing it to finish at about the same time as the squash.
  8. Place the spinach in a colander in the sink*.
  9. When the pasta is done, pour the pasta and pasta water into the colander to wilt the spinach.
  10. When the squash is done, scoop out the flesh, and place it in a bowl. Add the spices, and mash together*. Check to see if you want to add more spice or sriracha or salt. If the texture is too thick, add your choice of liquid, a little at a time, until you have the consistency you like.
  11. Stir the pasta, spinach, and squash together*.

*kid-friendly steps

Notes: The easiest and safest way to cut butternut squash is to cut off the two ends, turn the squash vertically, and cut straight down into two halves.  A serrated spoon (sometimes called a grapefruit spoon) makes quick work of scooping out the seeds.

By the way, if you prefer, you can peel the squash first (be sure to get all the way down to the bright orange layer) and then bake. I just find peeling squash to be a pain.