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Winter wouldn't be complete without a bowl of rigatoni with butternut squash and spicy sausage. This comforting dish brings together sweet, spicy, creamy, and hearty all in one.
Watch how to make this
What makes this dish special
I'm on a butternut squash kick and loving it! If you saw my previous post on butternut squash rosti with fried eggs, you'll know that I'm on a mission to turn my husband into a squash lover. Well, I'm continuing that mission today with rigatoni with butternut squash and spicy sausage. When in doubt, just throw everything in a pasta dish, right? I gotta say, even though I made this for my husband, I was very excited about it myself. This is the winter pasta I want on repeat. Perfectly al dente rigatoni tossed with morsels of spicy sausage, sweet and creamy butternut squash, Swiss chard, red chili flakes, and all the parmesan. I'll skip to the end and tell you straight out, it was a winner.
- Butternut squash: A type of winter squash with a sweet and nutty flavor. It has a pale orange flesh and is commonly used in soups, stews, and roasted dishes. If you can't find butternut squash, you can use acorn squash instead but the taste will be slightly different.
- Spicy Italian sausage: A type of sausage seasoned with various spices, including red pepper flakes, garlic, and fennel. It has a mildly spicy and flavorful taste. You can also use mild Italian sausage if you prefer.
- Swiss chard: A leafy green vegetable with large, colorful leaves and edible stems. It has a slightly bitter taste which helps balance the other flavors. You can also use spinach or kale instead.
- Rigatoni: A short and wide pasta with ridges on the exterior, ideal for holding onto sauces. Other substitutions include penne, ziti, or any other short pasta shape.
- Red chili flakes: The dried, crushed red peppers add heat and a touch of spiciness. You can omit it for a non-spicy version.
- Creme fraiche: A cultured dairy product that has a tangy and slightly creamy flavor. If you can't find creme fraiche, use heavy cream instead.
How to make rigatoni with butternut squash and spicy sausage
Step 1: Cook vegetables and sausage
As far as pasta dishes go, I have to say this is one of my easier recipes. You just have to saute the vegetables and sausage and add the pasta. Pretty doable, right?
First, start by cooking the butternut squash. We're going to cook the squash just until they're lightly browned and starting to get tender. They will continue to cook with the other ingredients so don't worry about getting them fully tender. In fact, I would discourage cooking them all the way because, by the time the other ingredients are done, the squash will turn into mush.
Add the red onions and cook until they are tender and softened. Next, add the crumbled spicy Italian sausage and cook until browned. You can substitute the spicy sausage for mild sausage or really any other sausage you prefer! Apple chicken sausage would work beautifully as well, adding another touch of fall to the pasta.
Finish the sausage by adding the Swiss chard, garlic, and red chili flakes.
Step 2: Toss it all together
While you're sauteing the vegetables, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles.
Whenever you make pasta, make sure to save some of the pasta water. It binds the sauce with the noodles and completes the dish. Toss the rigatoni with the remaining ingredients including the creme fraiche and grated parmesan. The creme fraiche just adds a touch of creaminess to the pasta but you can also add the same amount of heavy cream instead. Season with salt and pepper and you're done!
This rigatoni with butternut squash and spicy sausage is now officially my new favorite winter pasta. The butternut squash breaks down and turns into a sauce when combined with the creme fraiche. It just works so perfectly with the wilted chard and spicy sausage. Delicious all around and yes, my husband also loved it!
Frequently asked questions
The spicy seasoned Italian sausage adds a ton of flavor to the pasta but if you're not a fan of sausage, you can use ground meat instead. I recommend seasoning the meat with similar spices found in Italian sausage to mimic the flavors.
Cook the vegetables and sausage and boil the pasta, rinsing it in cold water to stop the cooking process. Then, when it's time to serve, toss together the pasta with reserved pasta water, sauce, creme fraiche, and parmesan and heat until hot.
More spicy Italian recipes
Looking for more Italian dishes with a spicy kick? Try these:
Rigatoni with Butternut Squash and Spicy Sausage
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cups peeled and diced butternut squash
- 1 small red onion diced
- 12 ounces spicy Italian sausage casings removed
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 bunch Swiss chard thick stems removed, chopped
- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
- salt and pepper
- 8 ounces rigatoni
- ¼ cup creme fraiche
- ⅓ cup grated parmesan plus extra
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add chopped butternut squash and saute until lightly browned, about 6-7 minutes. The butternut squash should be getting tender but won't be completely cooked.
- Add chopped red onion and saute until tender, about 4 minutes. Add sausage, breaking it up into smaller chunks. Saute until sausage is browned, about 3 minutes.
- Add garlic, swiss chard, and red chili flakes. Continue to cook until chard is wilted, another 3 minutes. Season mixture with salt and pepper and keep warm.
- While vegetables and sausage are cooking, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook rigatoni until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving ¼ cup of the pasta water.
- Immediately add cooked rigatoni to sausage mixture along with ¼ cup reserved pasta water, creme fraiche, and grated parmesan. Stir to coat pasta in the sauce and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle extra parmesan on top and serve immediately.