Rigatoni with Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic

Autumn flavors combine with pasta for comfort food delight!

The weather finally turned this weekend to crisp and cooler, and then rainy and dank. Lulled by a long, warm early Autumn, we’re all scrambling now to finish those yard chores before snow. Although the thermometer dipped and hovered close to freezing, and the chilly rains began, we still haven’t had a frost and my morning glories, although a bit sad looking, are still blooming.

Let’s steam up the kitchen

But it’s time for autumn cooking! Soups and breads and pasta are calling my name. The winter squashes of every size and color are glorious this year, nudging me to flip the page to fall cooking. I turned to one of my standbys –– butternut squash. It is sweet and flavorful, full of nutrition, and it has a milder taste than some of the more rugged squashes, so it is always a crowd pleaser.

Butternut squash
Sweet, savory, this beautiful squash is a pantry staple this time of year.

A little stealth

One of my favorite dishes using butternut squash is a pasta, with the squash playing the role of sauce. When my kids were small (and my grandkids as well), I would add puréed squash to their macaroni and cheese just to make sure there was a vegetable in the dish! They loved it, as they did the addition of broccoli and cauliflower florets, and if I made it with “the big fat macaroni” they were even more entertained. Of course, this included real Vermont cheddar!

You can please them all with this one!

Over the years, with a few dairy challenged family members, I devised a dish that skips the cheese altogether, but still has the visual appeal of the comfort food, and delivers on its own special flavors. If you use brown rice rigatoni here, it will even please the gluten-free crowd.

You can, of course, use any favorite pasta, even “little macaroni,” or be adventurous and use fettuccine and turn it into a vegetable-based Alfredo, as my friend Terrie Gura, Comfort du Jour, pondered! She made a delicious pumpkin pasta dish with lots of infused flavor recently that you should check out.

The roasting of the squash, onions, and garlic adds flavor to the dish (it’s also really simple), the hot sauce lends a little zip, and the pecans an unexpected but welcome crunch!

And if dairy is still on your plate, you can certainly grate some flavorful Parmesan at the end!

Rigatoni with Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic

  • 1 butternut squash, chopped, about 1 ½ lbs.
  • 1 large head garlic
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • Hot sauce to taste
  • 1 lb. whole wheat or brown rice rigatoni 
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 handfuls arugula
  • ½ cup toasted pecans
  • 4 or 5 cherry tomatoes, diced

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Grease a rimmed baking sheet.

Peel and chop the squash. Scatter over the baking sheet in a single layer.

Peel and cut the onion into eights, from pole to pole. Place on baking sheet as well.

Cut the top off the head of garlic, place on a little square of foil, and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap it up and nestle it on the baking sheet.

Bake until the squash and onion are tender, set your timer to 30 minutes and check, it will probably be just right for both vegetables, but if the onions need a little longer keep them in an remove the squash. At this point, remove the garlic as well if the bulb feels soft when squeezed.

Let everything cool just to where you can work with it. Once cool enough, place the squash and onions in your food processor, and purée until very well blended. Squeeze the pulp out of the garlic cloves and add to the puree along with the hot sauce and some salt and pepper. Taste for the heat level. You can also use a food mill for this, or the blender if you use some pasta water to loosen it up and do it in batches.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and salt it. Add the rigatoni and cook to just under what the package recommends. Save a cup of the pasta liquid, then drain the pasta.

Return the pasta to the pan and add the puree along with a half cup of the pasta water. Continue adding pasta water as you like to loosen the sauce to where you want it, but make it a bit looser than you think because the pasta will continue to absorb the liquid. Stir in the peas, arugula, and pecans, and season well.

Plate and garnish with a few chopped cherry tomatoes and a drizzle of fruity olive oil. Add some freshly grated Parmesan if you like!

To reheat any leftovers, you will usually have to add some water or milk as the pasta will continue to absorb all the liquid! It will still taste as wonderful.

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54 Comments Add yours

  1. Delish!! We did a pumpkin sauce on gnocchi last week and it was to DIE for. I’ll be trying this soon!! ❤️

    1. Thank you! I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

  2. Terrie Gura says:

    Oh. My. Goodness! This sounds so satisfying, and I love every single ingredient in this gorgeous dish, Dorothy! I love how you always cover all the bases to ensure nobody feels “cheated” if they have dietary restrictions. And thank you also for the shout out on my pumpkin mac and cheese dish!

    You know, our kitchen will be finished in another week (or so they tell me), and this will be one of the first things I make!

    1. Thanks Terrie! I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
      Our family has quite a few dietary restrictions. If my daughter or granddaughter were to have this dish, I’d have to omit the nuts because of their severe allergies. Half of the family is dairy intolerant, we have a couple of gluten challenged folks, a vegan, and a couple of vegetarians. Plus, we have meat and potatoes stalwarts as well! Can’t please then all at the same time, but I sure try to have options at big gatherings!

  3. Chef Mimi says:

    I just love squash sauces. I absolutely despise peeling butternut squash, so I always have cans of organic squashes handy. Love the roasted garlic in this!

    1. I hear you Mimi! The butternut squashes are a pain to peel because you usually have to go over it a couple of times! Sometimes, I just cut it in half and roast it whole and deal with the parts after its cooked!

  4. jnstover says:

    Sounds delicious. Will have to try th recipe.

    1. Thank you! It’s really tasty!

  5. Veerle MARIA L Goossens says:

    A number one recipe 😋

    1. Thank you so much! The basics have been in my book for years, and we love switching things up now and then.

  6. My basic Pasts rule is that you can put just about anything in a pasta dish, just like pizza. This looks great, thanks for posting!

    1. That’s a rule Charlie! There’s lots of other things you could add to this one too!

  7. Gorgeous. Just my favourite kind of pasta and flavours.

    1. Thank you! It’s so hearty, and beautiful to look at too!

  8. BERNADETTE says:

    This looks like a great weeknight supper. Thanks, Dorothy.

    1. It is Bernie! Most of the work is done in the oven!

  9. Anonymous says:

    I love squash and pasta so great to put them
    Together! This looks delicious!

    1. Thank you so much! It’s a nice combination.

  10. This sounds divine Dorothy, I love butternut squash, and haven’t ever pureed it for a sauce, what a great idea! The pecans were unexpected, and what a great texture and flavor addition~

    1. Thanks Jenna. The pecans add such a lovely flavor to this, and a little crunch!

  11. Such a tasty and colorful dish, not to mention nutritional.
    I just bought a nice butternut squash, so I think I know what’s for dinner! Thanks! 🙂

    1. I hope you love it too, and I’m sure you will put your own special twists on this one!

      1. It was delicious! I actually didn’t change much, except for adding Parmesan cheese on top before serving, which is hard for me to resist with any pasta dish. 🙂

      2. So glad you enjoyed it! My husband added the Parm too! Just didn’t seem right on a pasta dish!

  12. CARAMEL says:

    Not so different from what I had for dinner tonight 🙂

    1. Wonderful! I’m sure you enjoyed it as well! ‘Tis the season!

  13. This looks and sounds delicious Dorothy! I’ll definitely be giving this one a try.

    1. Thanks Terri! I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

  14. capost2k says:

    I always love butternut squash just mashed up like potatoes, but will have to try it as a pasta sauce, now . . . unless you want to mail some to us! 😂
    ❤️&🙏, c.a.

    1. I would, but the mail is so s l o w lately!
      I love it just mashed up as well!

      1. capost2k says:


  15. My husband doesn’t do squash, but this would be a real treat for this reader. I love squash, and this is one delicious looking meal.

    1. Thanks Judy! I’ll share with you!

  16. Gail says:

    I absolutely know this meal is restaurant-worthy. The richness and creaminess the squash adds to the sauce is exquisite! 😍🍃

    1. Thank you Gail! This really is luscious!

  17. Looks delicious, Dorothy!

    1. Thank you Anne Marie! We really liked this, and so did my sister after I sent her dinner!

      1. My sisters don’t send me meals. 😧. But then my closest sister lives an hour away and the others live at least eight.

      2. I’m lucky, mine lives five minutes away!

      3. That would be convenient!

  18. Americaoncoffee says:

    Your recipes are always right on time and so smart. Currently I am with the Spinach pasta and your ingredients make a great add. 😍

    1. This would be lovely with spinach pasta!

      1. Americaoncoffee says:

        Definitely my style.@! Thank you!)))❤️(((

  19. nancyc says:

    I haven’t ever made anything with butternut squash, but you are inspiring me to try it! This pasta looks delicious!

    1. Thanks Nancy! Pureed vegetables are pretty useful in lots of things, even if it is just using up leftovers!

  20. A delightful comfort food indeed 😋

    1. Thank you! We all loved it!

  21. What a great way to add more veggies to a meal!

    1. It’s a little stealth, but a great way to get some extra veggies in!

  22. Roasting the squash will bring out its flavor. Nicely done.

    1. Thanks Stefan! It really does make a difference.

  23. NativeNM says:

    I’m a little behind this week but I wanted to mention how wonderful your Rigatoni dish looks! Oh my goodness I would love a bowl of all that goodness. I love the wilted arugula that is added to the hot pasta and squash puree, so many flavors with a little fresh tomato on top. Yum!

  24. Rehoboth says:

    Sounds delicious 😋

    1. Thank you! It’s a new family favorite!

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