Any other subject matter at this time, seems commonplace next to what is happening on the East Coast. My thoughts and prayers are with the families and business' who are hurting right now. I am inspired by the sense of community that comes from disasters like Hurricane Sandy and how we are capable of rallying around each other to make the best of things that are beyond our control. We need people.


Earlier this year, I contributed to six different publications about vegetarian Thanksgiving dishes. Six! That's a lot! I realize that turkey is a big deal, but is it often people's favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal? Don't answer that. It's too late. My favorite part has always been the fresh vegetable side dishes, as they always seem the canvas for creative flavors and trying new things. I made this salad last year and my sister in law is bringing these green beans to the big dinner this year. Thanksgiving is typically a spread of heavy foods, lots of cream, gravy, butter and while I get that this is tradition, I self impose the responsibility to bring a contast to that. I'm testing out a few recipes in search of a new dish to bring to my family's table this year, and this one is certainly in the running. Maybe not the lightest of the options per se, but I try to contribute something that can act as a main dish for the vegetarians and a tasty side for everyone else. I wrote the vegetarian menu for a great spread in this months Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine, and while flipping through it to find my recipes, I earmarked this great looking pasta dish. I don't often make pasta, I can probably count the times on one hand, but this recipe had the potential to be more vegetable than starch focused. I like my pasta heavy on the vegetables, light on the pasta, so that is where you'd notice the biggest change in the original recipe. I added more squash, lots of greens and scaled back the amount of pasta. They also call for pepitas. I used toasted pistachios because I love them and already had some in my pantry. If you're bulking it up for an omnivorous family, some sausage could nudge itself in here, though I'd argue the dish lacks nothing on its own. 

This has been a pretty crazy season for us. Lots of travel, work, special occasions, book promoting and what not. All great things, but not exactly in moderation as of late. I'm really excited for life to slow up a bit in the next few months so I can process it all and soak this past year in. I need some stillness, quiet, time of staring into the vast ocean, long dinners with good friends, and an overall refresh. All of that is totally reasonable as we're heading into the holidays, right?! Until then, there will be some tasty squash penne.


Adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray Magazine, November 2010

I used a brown rice penne from Jovial pasta (a new favorite, the texture is wonderful for a GF pasta). I am not particularly fond of penne, for no good reason, and think small shells or some tagliatelle would work great too. The pesto can be made a few days in advance and kept in a covered container in the fridge. Any extra can be mixed with a splash of water and more lemon juice for a fabulous salad dressing. I would double it for that specific reason but I'll leave that up to you.


  • 2 lbs. (one large) butternut squash, peeled seeded and cut into 1'' pieces
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil or melted coconut oil
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • bit of fresh grated nutmeg
  • 8 oz. brown rice, quinoa or whole grain penne pasta
  • 2 huge handfuls (about 3 cups) well chopped baby spinach or swiss chard



  • // pistachio pesto //
  • 1 large/ 2 small cloves garlic
  • zest and juice of one meyer lemon or lime
  • 1/3 cup toasted, unsalted pistachio nuts
  • 1 jalepeno or serrano, seeded (I leave a few seeds for spice)
  • 1 cup packed herbs, such as cilantro, parsley, chives, basil
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan or pecorino, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4-1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • few pinches of salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 450' and set a large pot of salted water to boil. 

On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the butternut cubes with the olive oil (enough to coat), smoked paprika, salt, a grate of nutmeg and toss to coat. Bake for about 20 minutes or until edges are charred. 

Cook the pasta according to instructions, reserving a cup of the cooking water. 

For the pesto, add the garlic, lemon zest and juice to the processor and pulse a few times to break down. Add the jalepeno, pistachios, herbs and parmesan and run the processor to mix, about 30 seconds. Drizzle in the olive oil and a few pinches of salt and pepper until combined. Taste and alter as desired. If you want it thinner, add a splash of water or oil. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine the pesto, greens, drained pasta and half of the pasta water and toss gently. The warm pasta and water will wilt the greens perfectly. Add water if needed. 

Garnish with a fresh grate of cheese, pepper and any leftover herbs. 

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Reader Comments (72)

This looks so delicious. Thank you for a beautiful post :)

November 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

This recipe looks great! Just a quick question - how many pistachios should be added to the pesto? Or are they sprinkled on top? Thanks!

November 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterML

Mmm, this looks SO good, especially that pesto. Definitely happening.

November 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAllison

@ML - I kept re-reading this post with the feeling I forgot something. Thank you for spotting that! I added it in. I used somewhere around 1/3 cup.

November 1, 2012 | Registered CommenterSara

yum, excited to start cooking again with whats left of autumns bounty. thanks for the inspiration always. x

November 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNicole Franzen

stop it - you had me at pistachio pesto. this recipe looks incredible, and is so beautiful too! will definitely be making this soon. YUM!!!

November 1, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlittle kitchie

This looks awesome! Love the idea of pistachio pesto...sounds super delicious!

November 1, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersara

oh this is perfect.
i love the first photo of the peeled-away squash.

November 1, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermackenzie

Oh, how I wish we had a Thanksgiving in here too. It's such a great tradition of family gathering and amazingly delicious food being shared. Just like this salad of yours :)

November 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMigle

This is my kind of Thanksgiving food! I'll definitely be picking up this month's Rachel Ray issue to see your spread.

November 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKathryne

Looks delicious! Pistachio pesto also sounds awesome!

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRonja

I'm not going to be able to wait until Thanksgiving to try this. I love the idea of pairing roasted butternut squash with pesto - such a hearty and flavorful combo.

and you're right, we do need people. I have a friend who once (after a few beers) said "I Love Humans!" and you know what, I do too. There's just so much to love.

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertalley

I really like the combination of squash and greens, it also works perfectly. Haven't tried on pasta yet, so curious about it!

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike

It looks delicious! look foward to try this recipe :) Thank you!

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

Oh my goodness!!! I actually have all the ingredients to make this dish!!! Can't wait. Thanks so much:)

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulia

Oh that looks so good, especially that last picture makes me so hungry. Amazing as always!

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterA tasty love story

butternut squash is such a b*tch to cut/prepare but it's so worth it. this looks delicious!!

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterahu

I have the free world's supply of butternut squash, but have yet to try it in a pasta. This looks outstanding! Also, I love how you have the veggies/pasta proportioned. That's totally my preference as well.

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterErin@LawStudentsWife

GORGEOUS. And I love love love love love love (almost done) love love LOVE pistachio pesto. This ruleth.

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBev Weidner

Ooh, yum! I love colorful dishes because I always know it means I'm getting a good variety of veggies and other good stuff.

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjaime @ sweet road

As always: looks both delicious and beautiful. You two most surely are consistent in that regard!! You don't have to convince me on the glory of vegetable side dishes, and this is, indeed, the sort of thing I'm looking for myself each Thanksgiving season since becoming a vegetarian -- something that can be my main while also being enjoyed by all. Congrats on all of those contributions, and I wish you lots of rest and peace this holiday season! :)

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStacy

I have been crushing hard on roast butternut, lately -- nothing new, but i can't get enough. But I'd not yet thought to roast it in coconut oil! Or to add smoked paprika, mmmm.... Or nutmeg! So much goodness... Chances are I'll be roasting up a batch, just to eat all by its delicious lonesome.

And yes, Sara, you've definitely earned a break!

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermolly

"My favorite part has always been the fresh vegetable side dishes, as they always seem the canvas for creative flavors and trying new things." --- 100% agreed, and I'm already bookmarking some new players for this year's feast from your cookbook and site! Thanks for the continual inspiration!

And, I must add that I SO admire your pursuit of stillness, as that's been a recent focus in my own life. While it can be such a challenge in our world, it's so essential. Completely encouraging to hear of fellow travelers on that journey :)

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCaprice

Lady! We are on a butternut/pasta/salty cheese wavelength. I'm not even a huge pasta eater either. PASTA VIBES ARE HAPPENING! Saw your spread in the Rachael Ray mag too. I don't usually pick it up, but dang if I don't have it on my bedside table right now ;)

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

Hooray for butternut squash! I love the idea of using it in a hearty pasta. :)

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEileen

Sometimes all we need, especially when our lives are hectic, is a big bowl of pasta... like this beautiful one here.

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrian @ A Thought For Food

Just harvested 45 lbs of winter squash. This recipe is now at the top of my list. Looks awesome.

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie

Can't wait to try it out!

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle

I love this twist on pasta sauce and pesto. I'm putting on my menu for the week.

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGwen @SimplyHealthyFamily

I want this. Right. Now. The serrano in the pesto?! - pure genius.

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

Wish this was printer friendly. I will definitely try it, but would love to it confined to one page I could print out and keep in my recipe file.

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Lovely post for any time!

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMartha Perry

Makes me crave pasta! Love how the dish is so veggie-loaded and the noodles don't take over the spotlight completely. Your photography is stunning!

November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

Your pictures always amaze me. This pasta looks and sounds so fabulous!

Gorgeous. Just gorgeous. That photo with the garlic and chives. I could just stare at it forever! Thanks for a fantastic new recipe!

November 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSharmila

I am so glad that someone else has irrational dislikes of pasta shapes. I know the shape shouldn't make a difference but it really does. I am a bit of a pasta fiend but I can definitely appreciate a dish that's more heavy on the veg than the pasta & I'm so taken with the idea of the pistachio pesto.

November 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn / London Bakes

Made this for dinner tonight and it was delicious! I recommend generous helpings of the cilantro and lemon to make the pesto :-)

November 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNatasha

Big fan of pasta, over here! And an even bigger fan of pasta with loads of vegetables :)

My favorite dishes at Thanksgiving - or any family get together, for that matter - have always been the vegetable heavy ones. Hosting my first Thanksgiving dinner this year and I'm using recipes from your cookbook to fill the menu ;)

PS - I've been thinking of you and your Aunt all week! So many warm, uplifting thoughts coming your way.

November 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAshlae

I, too, aim to offer dishes at the Thanksgiving table that are as nourishing as they are delicious. This recipe, with its brilliant pistachio pesto, just might upstage the big, burly turkey at a feast.
And, I, too, am looking to create more reflective time for myself as this year winds to an end. (well, a girl can dream, can't she!?)

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKendall

This is so beautiful! I just adore those photos of lush fresh herbs and garlic, yum!

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShira

I made this today for a church potluck. It was awesome, and I received tons of compliments! Thank you!!!

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKayla

This looks lovely. And after squash everything in the last couple of weeks, I just promised my husband no squash for a while. Darn - I might be breaking that embargo sooner than I thought!

November 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte

My favorite parts of the meal tend to be the vegetable side dishes and dessert...Though, in my family, we'd pretty non-traditionalist, so there's never a pumpkin pie on the table, or a green bean casserole. I'm excited to try out some new dishes this Thanksgiving, too :) This pasta sounds fabulous!

November 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKasey

I made the Beans and Leeks from your cookbook. By far, the best pot of beans I've ever made or eaten. My girls loved them, especially the cheese on top. We also made the millet and arugula salad. Delicious. We rounded out the meal with a loaf of crusty, rye soda bread. We love your recipes and the book is wonderful.

November 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

My god this is seriously devine!! Made this for an entire week's worth of lunch and I feel like I could never tire of it! Thank you for the recipe.

November 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaisy

I made a slightly modified version of this recipe using Quinea and a pre-made Sicilian pistachio pesto called "I Dolci Sapori dell'Etna", and it was fantastic! Seriously, one of the best things I've ever made. Thanks!

November 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShelby

This was SO DELICIOUS (if I could exaggerate the all caps further, I would). I knew it would be good after reading the recipe, but I certainly wasn't expecting an omg-where-have-these-flavors-been-all-my-life-I-need-more kinda feeling. Thank you for a seriously fabulous recipe!

November 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNuala

Oh, everything about this is wonderful! Pistachio pesto sounds amazing. Thanks for this great recipe.

November 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterheidi

Oh my word, this looks amazing!
1. I love butternut squash
2. I had never thought to have it with paprika
And 3. Your pistachio pesto sounds divine!!
I'm so excited to try this!

November 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel @ Almonds nd Avocados

Tried it just yesterday. What should I say - it was perfect!!! Thanks for all your inspiring recipies! Love from Germany.

November 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterClaudia

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