Dinner Rush! Creamy Rigatoni with Squash, Sage and Pine Nuts

Move over, pumpkin spice latte — you’re not the only squash-themed edible that deserves the seasonal spotlight. Let’s clear a path for good ol’ reliable butternut. Is it the sexiest squash at the market? Hardly. But what it lacks in front-porch decor appeal it more than makes up for with a cute name and remarkable versatility.

This time of year, butternut squash really is everywhere. You can pick one up whole or already cubed up in the produce section. They’re also hiding out in a lesser-known location: the freezer case. Frozen squash will save a ton of prep time, whether you buy it cubed or pureed. While the recipe below makes fantastic use of the whole squash, buy yourself a little extra and toss it in with soups, stews or your breakfast hash. You’ll be doing your dinner plate a vitamin-boosting favor and helping out an underdog.

Now, step out into that spotlight, butternut squash. You deserve it.

Creamy Rigatoni with Squash, Sage and Pine Nuts
Total Time: 17 min
Prep: 2 min
Cook: 15 min
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Level: Easy
1 pound rigatoni or mezze rigatoni
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
12 leaves sage
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 teaspoon whole or ground fennel seeds
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup dry white wine, optional
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
One 10-ounce bag frozen cubed butternut squash
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to garnish
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Few grates fresh nutmeg
Salt and ground black pepper
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook to al dente according to package directions. Drain well and reserve.

While the pasta is cooking, place a medium pot over medium heat with the butter and oil. Once the butter has melted and stops foaming, add the sage and fry until crisp and aromatic, about 30 seconds. Remove the sage leaves from the pan and reserve. Add the shallots, fennel seeds and garlic to the pan and cook until aromatic and tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the wine, if using, and cook until almost completely evaporated.

Sprinkle the flour into the pan and cook for 1 minute. Slowly add the milk to the pan, whisking to incorporate. Simmer the sauce until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the squash, Parmesan, parsley and nutmeg, and simmer to heat through. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.

Gently toss the sauce with the cooked pasta. Serve garnished with pine nuts, the reserved fried sage leaves and additional Parmesan cheese.

NOTE: When adding the milk to the pan, it will pay off to give it a quick warm-up in the microwave or on the stove. Adding cold milk to the hot pan will cause the flour to seize up and could make your sauce lumpy. Warming the milk will help it to better incorporate.

Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has, probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary teams for Food Network stars Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee, Marc Forgione and Bobby Deen, he now works on digital production for FoodNetwork.com, CookingChannelTV.com and Food.com in NYC by day and develops recipes at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following him on Instagram or visiting his website at patrickwdecker.com.

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