This comforting pasta recipe with sausage, butternut squash, spinach and mascarpone cheese was created after a recent trip to visit family for Thanksgiving. The dish hit the spot after arriving home to an empty house (and refrigerator) the night before. Our anticipated 5-hour drive home stretched to 9 hours due to accidents on the turnpike. My 1-year-old son was too little to understand why he was strapped to a chair for so long, so much of our time was spent soothing and distracting him. We finally got home in the middle of the night, and dragged ourselves into bed.
After such a stressful night, we were happy to have a day to relax. But what was there to eat? I scoured my freezer and pantry and found the ingredients for this delicious recipe. I know most people don’t keep a tub of mascarpone cheese in the freezer, but I do. I like to freeze anything that may spoil when we go on a trip. Deli meats, cheeses (sliced and soft), fresh vegetables and leftovers all get frozen. The meats and cheeses defrost just fine, and the vegetables (like whole tomatoes) get tossed into a pasta sauce.
For this recipe, I was lucky to have a fresh, organic butternut squash. Add to that a pack of frozen spinach, Italian turkey sausage and cheese from the freezer. Then I found some pine nuts and pasta from the pantry and I was good to go.
I love the combination of flavors and textures in this pasta recipe. You get the slightly sweet, roasted butternut squash, then the savory spicy sausage. Crunchy pine nuts are the perfect counter to the creamy pasta and spinach. It just all works.
If you happen to have fresh spinach instead of frozen, please go ahead and us it. If you don’t have spinach, a good substitute is Swiss chard or broccoli rabe. Use your favorite type of sausage, preferably spicy or sweet Italian. I used spicy Italian turkey sausage.
Preheat oven to 425° F/220° C
Pour some of the oil on a baking sheet lined with foil. Add the squash, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Cook for 35-40 minutes, until the squash is soft and nicely browned. Remove from the oven and set aside.
While the squash is baking, heat a skillet and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan. Add the onion and cook for 8 minutes over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir. Add the spinach and cook for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Bring the pasta water to a boil. Season the water with salt and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1-2 cups of the pasta water to make the sauce.
Pour the hot pasta into a large pot or bowl. Add the mascarpone cheese and 1 cup of the pasta water (add more if necessary to thin the sauce). Allow the cheese to melt and toss. Add the squash, spinach mixture and pine nuts. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve with Parmesan cheese.