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)

I made this last night and it was incredible! All of the flavors were wonderful, but the smoked paprika blew my mind. Thank you!

November 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

This was delicious! I am not big on butternut in salty recipes (always use it for pies or something sweet), but here it fitter perfectly. Thanks for sharing.

November 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAliona

I love the sound of a pistachio pesto, I mean why not!. Looks delish and I want to make it this week! x

November 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa Sharp

I set about to make something similar tonight, then I realized I was out of pasta. The end result was a coconut roasted butternut baked with cod.

November 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThis American Bite

I made this tonight and it was delicious! I used kale instead of chard and made the pesto with parsley and chives and added some crumbled sausage made with broccoli rabe and pecorino cheese. So so yummy!

November 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAdina

I'm having, that, tomorrow for my lunch! FANTASTIC IDEA!!! Thank you!

November 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkazbi


November 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterannie

Wow, paprika & squash? I will give it a shot, since I only I use my poor lonely paprika for topping off my hummus!

November 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterthefolia

i love the photographs of this post. i've also never used pistachios for pesto. what inspiration, thank you!

November 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertina@theunprocess

I made this pasta for some guests and everyone loved it! I'm a big pasta lover so I used more penne but just doubled the pesto recipe and it was delicious. I will definitely make this again.

November 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnita

Any herb suggestions from the bunch that have made it? I'm not a fan of parsley so anything other then that!

November 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSara

@Sara - a combination of basil, chives and cilantro will do!

November 29, 2012 | Registered CommenterSara

I made this but added toasted pistachios at the end to give it a little crunch and a a drizzle of the leftover Meyer lemon...great additions to an already great recipe!

December 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

this is seriously one of the best things i have ever eaten. so, so amazing. thank you!

January 3, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermegan

I really loved this dinner. I made it once with pasta but without the cheese and I've come back to it. Hmm...maybe I'll try it with quinoa this time. Really lovely and great to have the greens mixed through. Thank you for sharing.

January 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia

just made this today (fourth day of cooking from this blog), and this recipe tastes as amazing as everything else i tried from here. the pesto sauce itself was divine (despite the fact that i had to substitute almond butter for pistachios and some pepper Tilamook cheese for parmesan). i also added in some red beet and peppers to the roasted veggies :) yum!

January 27, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterrodica

Great stuff! At first I thought the pesto was turning out far too lime-y, but the chard addition balanced it out nicely. Ours looked surprisingly like the pictures, which is always nice. I would recommend charring or broiling the squash to get a little crunch in there, though it may take more time (relatedly, I wouldn't recommend sweet potato as a substitute - it would get way too squishy way too fast). My husband suggested adding shrimp for a little meaty addition.

February 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChelsea

This was fantastic!! I used cilantro in the pesto and subbed 1tsp of chipotle powder for the paprika on the squash. I was hesitant because the cilantro was so powerful in the pesto, but the sweetness of the squash and the heat from the chipotle were a perfect balance for it! Definitely on the "make again" (soon) list!! Thank you!

February 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBecky

I know this recipe isn't new, but yesterday was a rainy "fall-ish" day in Seattle and I wanted something cozy, found this recipe, and made it for dinner with pork chops. I used acorn squash instead - the butternuts at the store were MASSIVE and the rest would have gone to waste - and it was SO good. It's a bit sad to see summer go, but at least there's fall cooking to look forward to. :)

August 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJenn

Who has actually made this dish! People are posting on how good it looks! Please let me know if anyone has made this dish and then rate it.

September 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCheery 5-0

My daughter made this dish for us this evening, it was extremely delicious. Thank you.

October 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKate

WHAT THE WHAT. Literally magic just happened in my kitchen.

The best pesto I have ever eaten. That's it. The end.

July 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPamela

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