During the summer I rarely eat pasta as I prefer lighter and cooler meals in the hot weather. As the temperature drops and the leaves change, I reintroduce pastas and soups into my regular rotation. However, with Montana’s bipolar weather patterns, fall typically holds as many days in the 70s as it does in the 40s, which makes my usual bulk preparation a bit more challenging. Quinoa salads are great for this, because they are excellent both warm and cold, making it easy to match the weather and my mood for the day, but I don’t want to eat one every week. Another option are vegetable-heavy pasta meals that don’t involve a heavy sauce.
This recipe is partly inspired by my favorite cookbook, written by an elite distance runner. It’s full of hearty and delicious meals that aren’t “skinny” but still full of veggies and healthy fats. I modified my version slightly, adding Brussels sprouts and changing the spices a little, based off a similar recipe online. The result is a colorful mix of veggies and pasta, falling somewhere between a light summer entree and a cozy fall one.
Brussels sprouts are a winter staple for me, as they keep well in the fridge and roasting them is simple and always delicious. (They are also sold at Costco, which admittedly factors heavily into my produce selections.) The butternut squash takes a bit more effort to prepare, but you can really streamline the process by buying the pre-diced version. This does feel slightly ridiculous, but it saves a huge amount of time and effort so personally I think it’s worth the extra couple dollars.
Browned butter adds a nice caramel flavor, complimented by herbs and a few red pepper flakes. I kept my sauce on the light side as I wanted the veggies to shine, but absolutely double the sauce recipe if you want a more decadent experience. I opted to add toasted walnuts for some crunch, and parmesan (because you can’t go wrong with cheese) for a delicious protein boost. I personally loved this recipe in its original vegetarian state, but some crumbled bacon or prosciutto would be a nice addition as well.
It reheats nicely for leftovers, and is also pretty good cold if you didn’t add too much extra sauce. Welcoming in the fall vegetables without the heat or heaviness of a chili, it bridges the divide from summer to winter with a more gradual shift. If, like me, you’re in a place that can’t quite make up it’s mind about the weather, a batch of this will be that perfect mix of cozy and cool.
Fall Harvest Browned Butter Pasta
2 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
2 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb pasta (I used casarecce)
for the sauce1
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly grated pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted2
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.
- In a large bowl, mix together butternut squash and 1 tablespoon of olive oil until squash is well coated. Spread in an even layer on one baking sheet.
- In the same bowl, mix together Brussels sprouts and remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, mixing until well coated. Spread in an even layer on the other baking sheets.
- Sprinkle both sheets with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Roast for 30 minutes (squash on top), stirring halfway through, until squash is tender.
- Remove squash from oven and move sprouts to the upper rack, roasting another 5-10 minutes until browned and crispy.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta al dente, according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- When the veggies have about 10 minutes remaining, make the sauce: melt butter in a large pot (I used a wok) over medium heat. Simmer until it begins to darken and contains brown flecks, stirring occasionally.
- Turn off the heat and stir in garlic and spices.
- When the veggies and pasta are done, stir gently into the sauce until completely combined and evenly coated.
- Serve hot with extra grated pepper, optionally topped with one tablespoon each of Parmesan and toasted walnuts.
1 I kept the sauce fairly light as I wanted the veggies to shine through. If you’re looking for a rich, buttery experience, feel free to double the sauce recipe.
2 To toast walnuts, spread on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until warmed, lightly golden, and a little crunchier (about 5 minutes).