The Best Fall Carb: Spicy Sausage and Butternut Squash Pasta with Whipped Ricotta and Fried Sage

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For most of my Insta feed, cold October nights signal the start of #PSL season. For me, it is the beginning of carb eating season. And this season, I am going all in on this Spicy Sausage and Butternut Squash Pasta with Ricotta and Fried Sage. Mostly because it is delicious, but also because it is ridiculously easy and highly riff-able. 

Here are the basics: Some kind of ground meat (lamb, beef, or pork), your fave fall squash (butternut, acorn, pumpkin), rigatoni or some other pasta shape, some high quality parmesan cheese, ricotta, sage, and some heat in the form of crushed hot pepper (red pepper flakes, cayenne, Aleppo pepper).

This whole recipe, in its many steps, is really straightforward. Cook the squash and pork, combine ‘em. Add the cooked pasta, add the parm, and combine with the pasta water.

You can hack this recipe by purchasing precut butternut squash, and quite honestly, I suggest it. The majority of the work in this recipe is peeling and cubing the squash, so if you can eliminate that step, you can make this whole dish in a flash.

 

Ingredients:

1 12-ounce box of dried paasta (rigatoni or a similar shape)

1 pound of Italian sausage

4 tablespoons of olive oil

1 medium-sized butternut squash, about 2-3 pounds, peeled and cubed into ¾ inch pieces

½ cup of fresh grated parmesan cheese

¾ cup of ricotta cheese

1 teaspoon of red pepper (Aleppo, crushed red pepper flakes, etc.)

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

8-12 leaves of sage

Method:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season generously with salt.

  2. Heat an oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl combine butternut squash, 3 tablespoons of oil, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Toss, coating squash with oil, salt, and pepper. Spread squash onto a sheet pan. Set bowl aside (it will be used later for the ricotta). Roast squash in the oven until a fork can be easily inserted into a piece of squash, about 20 minutes. When done, set aside.

  3. Add ricotta and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the bowl that was used for the squash. Whisk, until light and fluffy, about 30 seconds. Set aside.

  4. Add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente, approximately a minute shy of the directions on the box. (Make sure to reserve about a cup of the starchy pasta water before draining pasta).

  5. Meanwhile, in a large pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat, cook sausage, breaking up pieces with a wooden spoon. Leave undisturbed until well browned on one side, about 7 minutes. Push sausage to one side of the pan. There should be a thin layer of oil. Add whole sage leaves to the oil, letting them cook for 2 minutes, or until crisp. Remove sage and set aside.

  6. Add red pepper flakes to the pan. Stir to combine. Turn down the burner to the lowest setting to keep warm until pasta is finished cooking.

  7. When the pasta is nearly finished, reserve about a cup of pasta water. Drain pasta and add it to the skillet with the sausage. Turn heat up to medium, add butternut squash, ½ cup of pasta water, parmesan cheese, and toss vigorously to combine. Toss until the sauce thickens and coats the pasta. If too dry, add more pasta water ¼ cup at a time, and continue to stir. Note: you might not need all of the pasta water. Stop when it has come to right texture. 

  8. Serve in individual bowls or shallow dishes, top with a couple dollops of ricotta and whole fried sage leaves. For extra heat, sprinkle some more crushed red pepper on top.