This Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta features juicy meat, tender penne, and a thick, cheesy sauce for the perfect comfort food! This pasta recipe is an easy weeknight meal everyone will love.
Pasta with Butternut Squash Sauce
This amazing Butternut Squash Pasta was inspired by a side dish we have all the time: This Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese! We’ve had it so many times, and often it’s our favorite part of a meal. Finally, we decided to turn the dish into the main course by adding in some extra protein to keep us full longer. This creamy cheese sauce, easy penne, and ground meat make the perfect meal when you’re craving some good comfort food! If you want to add even more nutrition, try it with kale, too!
Butternut squash has a ton of health benefits–It’s high in potassium, fiber, and antioxidants like Vitamins C and A. It has a mild, slightly nutty, slightly sweet flavor that pairs well with both sweet and savory flavors. This adds a complex flavor that complements the cheddar and parmesan while also working to keep you healthier. Learn how to grow your own butternut squash to keep a steady supply of this orange, delicious fruit to your diet!
Butternut Squash Pasta Ingredients
Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll need to make this recipe. For exact measurements, keep scrolling down to the printable recipe card.
- Dry Penne Noodles and Pasta Water – You can use a different pasta type if you prefer. We enjoy penne because it holds this thick sauce perfectly! Macaroni, rotini, or fusilli would also work well. You’ll want to reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water to help thin out the sauce at the end.
- Ground Meat – Ground beef is a classic, but you can easily lighten this up with ground turkey or chicken!
- Frozen Butternut Squash Cubes – Find the 10 oz bag of cubed butternut squash in the frozen veggie aisle. You get to skip the peeling and cutting the fresh butternut squash, so this will save time and make this sauce super easy!
- Milk and Butter – These help make an ultra-creamy sauce. I haven’t tried any substitutions, but I do believe an unsweetened milk alternative and a plant-based butter substitute would work fine.
- Minced Garlic, Garlic Powder, Salt, Black Pepper – These are our flavor makers! If you’re sensitive to garlic, feel free to leave it out and swap for a flavor you enjoy better.
- Sharp Cheddar Cheese (shredded) and Parmesan Cheese (grated) – I haven’t tried any cheese substitutions in this recipe. If there are plant-based cheese substitutes that melt extremely well, you could probably swap these out as well.
How to Make Butternut Squash Pasta
This easy pasta is ready in about 30 minutes for an easy weeknight dinner! You’ll need a large pot, a skillet, a blender, and a stovetop or hot plate.
In a large pot, bring salted water to a rolling boil. Cook 2 cups of dry noodles according to the directions until al dente. Drain the pasta, but set aside 1 cup of the pasta water for later. This will help us thin out the sauce to the perfect consistency.
Heat a skillet to medium-high heat and brown your meat. Break it up into bite-size crumbles as it cooks. Once completely browned, drain off any grease and set aside for now.
Cook butternut squash
Cook your butternut squash until the cubes are soft and fork-tender. You can steam these cubes in the microwave or boil them–Whichever works best for you! Whenever the squash is cooked, place it in a blender with one cup of milk. Blend this mixture until it’s smooth with no remaining lumps.
Heat up your pasta pot over medium heat. Add in the butter to melt, then saute the garlic until just fragrant (30-60 seconds). Pour in the butternut squash + milk mixture, and then bring to a simmer. Stir in the spices, cheddar cheese, and parmesan until smooth. Finally, add in the cooked pasta and browned meat, then stir/toss to coat.
If the sauce seems too thick, pour in about 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water. Continue to add and stir if you’d like a thinner sauce. Once it meets your satisfaction, serve warm with an extra garnish of parmesan, cracked pepper, and chopped herbs if you’d like!
What to serve with pasta
We often love this dish all on its own as it’s quite filling (we might add some leftover bacon if it’s in the fridge, too). To stretch it further, you could start with this easy artichoke appetizer with garlic butter or maybe these smashed brussels sprouts with aioli. A great salad (like this classic wedge salad or a festive kale salad with cranberries) will help make this a full, balanced meal. If you need a bread to sop up the sauce, add this Gouda & Jalapeno Bread or these Cheddar Zucchini Cornbread Muffins.
How to Store Pasta
Allow leftovers to cool completely, then transfer them to an airtight container. Store in the fridge up to 3 days. Before and after reheating, stir well for the best texture.
Can I freeze cheesy pasta?
Yes, this recipe can be frozen for an easy meal later! First, allow the dish to cool completely–This is extremely important as residual heat will turn into moisture that can lead to freezer burn. Once cooled, move to a freezer-safe container and try to eliminate as much air as possible to further protect from freezer burn. Make sure to thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating for the best texture.
If you prefer to cook things fresh but want to prep the meal somewhat, you can make and freeze just the butternut squash cheesy sauce! Simply make the sauce, freeze in a jar (leave at least an inch of room for expanding), then thaw and use within 6 months.
How to reheat pasta
You can easily reheat this pasta in the microwave, oven, or on the stovetop–The trick is not letting it dry out. Here are my favorite tips for the BEST reheated pasta:
- Microwave: Place in microwave-safe bowl, then add about 1 tablespoon of milk per serving. Mix as well as you can to incorporate the milk. Reheat in 1-minute increments at 50% power, covered with a damp paper towel. Stir between blasts for even reheating.
- Oven: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place leftover pasta in a baking dish with 2-3 teaspoons of milk per serving and stir. Cover with foil, then place in preheated oven until warmed throughout (about 10-20 minutes, depending on amount reheating at once). Stir well to make it creamy again.
- Stovetop: Heat a pot to medium-low heat and add in your leftovers. Pour in about a tablespoon of milk per serving, then stir to incorporate. Place the lid on the pot and allow the pasta to warm up, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
If you love this easy dinner, you’ve got to try these pasta recipes!
- Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese – This easy meal has all the spice and flavor you want, but it’s in a convenient one-pan recipe that you can throw together quickly on a weeknight!
- Penne with Brussels Sprouts and Parmesan – This is a lighter, healthier dish that is light on the sauce but still has loads of flavor! The rich brown butter sauce is the perfect simple topping.
- Instant Pot Mac and Cheese – Talk about easy! This recipe cooks all together in the Instant Pot for a simple side dish or main entree that leaves hardly anything to clean up. Great for holidays when you need more space on the stovetop or oven for other things!
- Chicken and Spinach Pasta – So easy, creamy, and delicious! This light pasta recipe is simple but packs a big flavor punch even in its one-pan form!
- Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta – This is a huge favorite with kids because it includes all the flavors they love! It’s a simple, indulgent dinner that everyone is going to want again and again.
- Want more? Check out this list of one-pan pasta recipes we can’t get enough of.
- 2 cups dry penne noodles, cooked until al dente
- 1 cup reserved pasta water (you'll use this to thin the sauce if needed)
- 1 pound ground turkey, chicken or beef
Butternut Squash Cheese Sauce
- 1 (10 ounce) bag frozen butternut squash cubes
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- In a large pot bring salted water to a rolling boil. Cook the 2 cups of elbow noodles according to the directions until al dente. Drain, but reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, brown the meat in a skillet and drain off any grease.
- Cook the frozen butternut squash until soft (this can be steamed in the microwave or boiled until fork tender)
- In a blender, combine the tender butternut squash and 1 cup of milk, and blend until smooth.
- In the same pot, you cooked the pasta in heat to medium heat. Melt the butter and sauté the garlic. Pour in the butternut squash and milk mixture, and then bring to a simmer. Stir in the spices, cheddar cheese, and parmesan until smooth.
- Add the cooked pasta and meat to the sauce and toss to coat. If the sauce is too thick for your liking pour 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water as needed, stir, and when the sauce has reached your desired consistency, serve.
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Serving Size:1 1/4 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 423Total Fat: 38gSaturated Fat: 17gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 164mgSodium: 587mgCarbohydrates: 39gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 44g
To avoid any confusion I remove erythritol from the final carb count and net carb count, as it is not known to affect blood glucose levels. To calculate Keto recipes listed on this site carbs - fiber = net carbs. I use Nutrifox as my nutrition calculator. This nutrition information is an estimate based on the information provided by Nutrifox and the specific ingredients I used.