This hearty, wintery pasta tossed with sweet chunks of roasted butternut squash and crunchy, salty roasted kale came about as a happy accident. It’s a dish I’ve made for many years, one that my family turns to when the cold weather rolls in.
Roasted Kale and Butternut Squash Pasta is a simple dish to make, with no sauce per se, just olive oil, lemon zest, and crumbled goat cheese. It’s easy, magical, and everything you want in a comforting bowl of pasta: sweet creamy butternut, pleasantly bitter roasted kale, and al dente pasta. Yum!
I remember making Roasted Kale and Butternut Squash Pasta in my old ground-floor kitchen in Brooklyn. That’s at least 12 years ago, perhaps longer. My husband and I were in our late twenties and early thirties, both working long hours. We relied on a handful of pantry staples to stock our kitchen.
In the winter, we always had butternut squash and lacinato kale. Both are sturdy vegetables that hold well for days, or even weeks, so we kept them around. We loved their rich, hearty flavors, perfect for New York’s cold, slush-filled nights.
Over the years, I’ve learned that short pastas, like penne, rigatoni, or chiocciole are best. You can stab a couple with your fork and have room for kale and butternut in the same go. Lemon zest adds a bright note. So does a sprinkling of mild goat cheese as a finishing touch.
Beyond that, you don’t need anything else—there isn’t a single side dish I can think of that would make it better. It’s perfect and complete just as it is.
Tips for Dinner in Under One Hour
The genius of this recipe is that it’s relatively hands-off: The vegetables roast while the pasta water boils. While that’s happening, read a book, help the kids with homework, or just kick back and enjoy a glass of wine.
Before you go, two tips to get Roasted Kale and Butternut Squash Pasta ready for dinner in under one hour:
- Destemming the kale can take a while. But there is a trick to make it easier! I used to cut the ribs (the tough stem that runs down the middle of the leaf) out with the tip of a knife. My husband, the family prep cook, showed me a much quicker way: Hold onto the thick end of the rib with one hand and run your other hand along the rib to remove tender leaves, in a zipper-like motion. Thin leaves are easy to remove. Thicker ones may require two or three tries.
- Purchase pre-cut butternut, often available in plastic tubs in the produce aisle. The squash is usually cut into large pieces, so you may need to cut them in half or quarters.
- If peeling and chopping the squash yourself, check out this handy guide for step-by-step instructions on how to prep butternut squash.
Try These Swaps and Variations
While the combination of butternut squash and kale is wonderful, there are a variety of equally delicious options:
- Roasted sweet potato would work well here, as would slices of delicata squash. Even a mix of squash and roast apples would work—you’ll just want to offset the apples’ sweetness with extra cheese.
- For an extra layer of flavor, add roast diced red onions.
- Scatter roasted pine nuts on the pasta.
- I’ve always used lacinato kale, the kind with smooth, bumpy leaves sometimes called dino kale, but curly kale would also work.
- I often make this dish with a generous dusting of freshly grated parmesan, instead of the goat cheese. It’s flavor fades into the dish a bit more subtly, but it still adds a nice savory nuttiness.
Have Extra Vegetables?
Roasted Kale and Butternut Squash Pasta calls for a small squash (under 2 pounds). If you have a larger squash, cut and roast the whole thing. Leftovers are fantastic as a simple side dish, turned into a hash and served with eggs, or simply thrown into a salad.
Buy extra kale too! Make a raw kale salad dotted with roasted squash the next day. Goat cheese or parmesan would be great too.
Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to five days. If you reheat the pasta in the microwave, the kale (if your bowl is large enough and the kale has breathing room) will re-crisp. Don’t be surprised if you hear it spitting and sizzling a little bit.
If you heat the goat cheese, it will melt and its flavor will change. So, if you know you’re going to be storing the pasta, it’s best to store the goat cheese separately.
Cold Weather Pastas We Love
- Pasta de Fagioli
- Easy Pasta with Winter Greens
- Pasta with Spinach, Artichokes and Ricotta
- Orecchiette Pasta with Sausage and Kale
- Pasta with Butternut Squash Parmesan Sauce
Roasted Kale and Butternut Squash Pasta
1 small butternut squash (1 1/2 to 2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more for the pasta water
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 bunch lacinato kale (about 8 ounces), stems removed and cut into 1-inch pieces
12 ounces dry penne pasta
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Zest from 1 lemon
1 ounce goat cheese, crumbled
Prepare the oven and pasta water:
Arrange the oven racks to the top and bottom third of the oven. Preheat it to 350°F.
Fill a large pot with water. Salt it generously and set it over high heat. It will be used to boil the pasta.
Prepare the squash:
In a large bowl, add the squash, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Mix well until the squash is evenly coated with the oil. Transfer the squash to a large baking sheet and spread them out into a single layer so they’re not crowded together.
Prepare the kale:
In the same large bowl, add the kale, the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Use tongs to toss the kale until it is evenly coated with oil. Transfer the kale to a separate large baking sheet and spread them out as much as possible. It’s okay if some pieces overlap.
Set the large bowl aside. You don’t need to clean it out. You will use it later to toss the pasta.
Roast the vegetables:
Place the squash on the bottom third rack and the kale on the top rack of the preheated oven.
Roast the vegetables for 15 minutes. At this point, the kale will shrink and collapse quite a bit. Remove the kale from the oven (the squash stays put!) and use tongs to fluff it up a bit. Put the kale back into the oven and roast it until crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove the kale from the oven.
Turn the oven temperature up to 425°F. Continue roasting the squash until the largest pieces are tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes. The bottoms, where they touch the baking sheet, will start to brown.
Cook the pasta:
While the vegetables are roasting, cook the penne in the large pot of boiling water until al dente, following package instructions.
Drain the pasta into a colander set in the sink. Transfer it into the large bowl you had set aside and add the butter. The butter plus the residual oil in the bowl will coat the pasta.
Assemble the pasta:
Add the roasted squash and half of the lemon zest and mix well with a large spoon. Add the roasted kale and use tongs to gently toss it with the pasta. As much as possible, try not to crumble the crispy pieces of kale.
Sprinkle in the goat cheese. Taste and add more lemon zest, if desired.
Portion the pasta into individual dishes and serve.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 22g||29%|
|Saturated Fat 5g||27%|
|Total Carbohydrate 47g||17%|
|Dietary Fiber 8g||29%|
|Total Sugars 5g|
|Vitamin C 50mg||248%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|