The creamy butternut squash puree makes the perfect sauce for this butternut squash and pancetta pasta. It’s a delicious balance between creaminess and saltiness. When I was perfecting this recipe I figured a little cheese wouldn’t hurt to help thicken up the sauce. And as I made it over and over again it morphed into a sort of cacio e pepe, and honestly, I’m not mad.
Even after making this three times in two weekends, I still want more. Yup, you heard me, three times in two weekends. Last weekend I wanted to test out a new recipe and…well it didn’t quite make the cut. So I turned to Philip, my boyfriend, and favorite kitchen partner, and said “Do you mind if I try this again tomorrow night?” What a trooper he is, especially since he came into this saying he doesn’t like butternut squash. But, I think I’ve converted him with this recipe.
2019 vs 2020 Butternut Squash Pasta
When I first started Happy Stirring, I shared a recipe that was very similar to this one. It was actually my 5th post ever back in October 2019 when I started this journey. Crazy to think that it’s almost been a year since I started sharing my recipes. And thankfully, my photography skills have gotten better since then. Case in point:
The flavors I used when I first had this idea were spot on, but as my mom said “it was too dry” and I needed to figure out a way to add more sauce. Again, it was my mom who had the brilliant idea to take some extra butternut squash and make it into a creamy puree. And thus a new version of my butternut squash and pancetta pasta was born. And a much better recipe this time, might I add. I’ve learned so much in the year since I’ve started Happy Stirring.
Like for instance, the first time I made this pasta last year, it was dry. The second time, last weekend, it just wasn’t right. The pasta was delicious, don’t get me wrong, there was none left over. But the squash wasn’t soft enough, and there still was not enough sauce. I knew I needed to buy a bigger butternut squash in order to achieve the creaminess I was looking for. I even weighed my squash when I went back to the store the next day, how official! But then, of course, there’s the classic Laura mistake – TOO SALTY.
A Classic Mistake – Over Salting
This is a mistake I make often. It’s the number one complaint I get when I make dinner for my parents. Though in my defense, my mom is just very sensitive to salt, and generally thinks everything is too salty. And the next time I tried out this butternut squash and pancetta pasta, I had to agree with her this time. And I love salt, so that’s saying a lot. I knew where I had went wrong and decided to eliminate basically all the salt I had added. Between the pancetta, and the parmesan cheese in the puree, this butternut squash and pancetta pasta is plenty salty. But don’t worry, I still salted the pasta water! I mean come on, you can’t NOT salt the pasta water.
Originally I had also added salt to the roasted squash AND the butternut squash and pancetta mixture. It was a lot of salt, still delicious not going to lie, but again it just wasn’t right. And thankfully, Philip wasn’t too upset that I wanted to make this for dinner two nights in a row. And then again the following weekend so I could get this recipe out to you. That’s how good it is, I just couldn’t wait to share it.
There are a few moving pieces in this recipe, so I thought I’d do a breakdown of all the equipment you will need. For the puree you will need a food processer or a regular blender. That would be the most obvious. A pot for boiling you water, and making your pasta, and we use these Pyrex measuring cups to scoop out out of that pasta water (SO IMPORTANT TO SAVE THE PASTA WATER!) Of course, a large pan for the butternut squash and pancetta mixture to cook in. And big ol’ baking sheet and some aluminum foil for roasting that yummy butternut squash!
Creamy Butternut Squash & Pancetta Cacio e Pepe
- 3 1/2 lb butternut squash diced into bite size cubes and divided
- 10 – 12 oz pancetta diced
- 4 Tbsp olive oil divided
- 1 1/2 tsp paprika divided
- 4 big cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup yellow onion diced
- 1/8 cup fresh sage finely chopped
- 1 1/2 cups reserved pasta water
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
- black pepper
- Heat oven to 375°, place 2 cups of diced butternut squash to the side. Combine the remaining squash with 3 Tbsps olive oil, 1 tsp paprika, and black pepper (to taste.) Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and bake squash for 30 minutes.
- While the squash roasts, heat your pasta water up! In a separate large pan over medium heat, add 1 Tbsp of olive oil, the two cups of butternut squash, 1/2 tsp paprika, and black pepper (to taste.) Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- After the squash is starting to get softer, push off to the sides of the pan, creating a well. Add your pancetta and let cook in center of pan for about 5 minutes. This will help it get a little crispy!
- Mix the squash and the pancetta together, raise heat slightly higher, and cook another 10 minutes, mixing frequently, and making sure everything in the pan is evenly disturbed (again to help the pancetta get a crispy outside.)
- Add garlic, onion, and sage, and cook stirring frequently for another 10 – 15 minutes, until pancetta is browned and crispy, and squash is soft. Take off heat an place to the side.
- To make the butternut squash puree, add about 4 – 4 1/2 cups of roasted squash to your blender or food processor, along with the reserved pasta water. You may have some roasted squash leftover for a snack!
- Blend the squash and pasta water together until smooth. Add parmesan cheese and black pepper and blend into the squash puree.
- Mix cooked pasta, squash puree, and squash and pancetta mixture together and serve with additional parmesan cheese.
I shared some sneak peaks of this recipe yesterday on my Instagram. Make sure to follow me, and stay updated (and get some special behind the scenes photos.) Subscribe to the Happy Stirring emails to get an update ever time I post a new recipe, and thank you so much for your support!
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