Creamy Butternut Squash Italian Sausage Pasta with Spinach is a cozy and comforting weeknight meal to make on a cold Fall or Winter night. This recipe uses unsweetened coconut milk and is dairy-free. Made with spicy Italian sausage and seasoned with nutmeg, red pepper flakes, and fresh thyme, this pasta dish is packed with flavor and might become your family's new favorite way to eat butternut squash!
Butternut squash sausage pasta
This cozy Fall and Winter comfort food combines creamy roasted butternut squash sauce together with spicy Italian sausage, spinach, bow-tie pasta, and unsweetened coconut milk. It's perfectly seasoned with nutmeg, lots of fresh thyme, and red pepper flakes. You can easily make it ahead and assemble it when ready to serve - see the recipe card for details on making it ahead! Which makes it a perfect choice both for busy weeknights or for special occasions. You never know - it might become one of your family's favorite dishes to make during the chilliest months of the year! And, if you're looking for more butternut squash dinner inspiration, don't miss this tasty feta, spinach, and bacon stuffed butternut squash or this easy butternut squash pasta salad with Brussels sprouts, pecans, and dried cranberries.
- Butternut squash is a winter squash with a beautiful orange color that has a sweet and nutty flavor. It's packed with nutrients and a good source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. It is an excellent source of vitamins A, B6, C, and E, as well as several minerals, including magnesium, manganese, and potassium.
- I highly recommend spicy Italian sausage. It's so flavorful, and the spiciness gets quite mellow since it's mixed in with roasted butternut squash sauce. Spicy Italian sausage is very savory, which you want in this recipe. Mild or sweet sausage might add too much sweetness and is simply not flavorful enough.
- Bow Tie Pasta. This recipe uses an Italian pasta, called Farfalle, or bow tie pasta. The bow-tie shape of this pasta works very well with the creamy butternut squash sauce. Cook bow-tie pasta al dente for the best texture.
- Greens. I use fresh spinach. You can also use frozen spinach - thawed and drained of any liquid. Or, use kale instead.
- Coconut milk. Use full-fat unsweetened coconut milk. It's a great dairy-free alternative to regular cream. You won't even taste the coconut flavor as it will be disguised by the spicy Italian sausage and other seasonings
- Seasonings include nutmeg, red pepper flakes, fresh thyme, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. A lot of flavor comes from the spicy Italian sausage, so I highly recommend that you use it.
- Olive oil is used to cook sausage brush butternut squash halves before roasting.
Variations, substitutions, and add-ins
- Use any winter squash. You can make this recipe with pumpkin puree (canned) or roasted acorn squash. When using acorn squash, keep in mind that they are smaller in size and bake faster in the oven (about 30 minutes in the preheated oven at 400 F).
- Veggies. You can use spinach, kale, arugula, or Swiss chard. Other options are bell peppers or mushrooms.
- If you use milder sausage, I recommend upping the spices and adding smoked paprika and mild red chili powder to the mix.
- Cream. Even though I used coconut milk to keep this dairy-free, you can also use regular heavy cream or half-and-half.
- Add cheese such as Parmesan, Pepper Jack, shredded mozzarella, or Gruyere cheese.
- Time-saving tip. I recommend that you roast the butternut squash and puree it in advance. It will save a lot of time in preparing this recipe.
- Cook pasta al dente. That's when the pasta texture is at its best. It's especially important if you want to make this ahead.
How to make it ahead
Note that the complete recipe is at the bottom of this post, in the recipe card. Most of the steps of this recipe can be done a day or 2 in advance. If you want to prep some of the steps prior to when you're ready to serve, I would do these steps in advance:
- Roast butternut squash in the oven and then mash it into a puree in advance.
- Slice and cook sausage in advance.
- You can even cook the pasta in advance. In this case, make sure you cook it al dente so that it keeps its texture.
- Then, when you are ready to serve, all you have to do is proceed to the recipe section "Assembly" (in the recipe card at the bottom of this post) and go from there!
Because the sauce for butternut squash sausage pasta is made without any cheese, this recipe is easy to store and reheat.
- Fridge. Store the leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Reheat in the microwave oven. Reheat the refrigerated leftovers in a microwave oven for about 1 minute. Taste and reheat for 30 seconds more, if needed.
- Reheat on the stovetop. You can also reheat this in a large, high-sided skillet on the stovetop on low-medium heat. When using this method, add a small amount of heavy cream, half-and-half, or milk to thin out the sauce when reheating.
How to make it meatless
- Use plant-based Italian sausage, such as Beyond sausage brand.
- Use chopped portobellos instead of sausage. Cook chopped portobellos (generously seasoned with red paprika, red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper) with olive oil and lots of minced garlic. The rich meaty flavor of portobello mushrooms works great to replace sausage!
What kind of pasta to use
- Use a short-cut pasta, such as bow-tie, penne, rigatoni, orzo, gnocchi, or fusilli. Short-cut pasta works better with the creamy butternut squash sauce.
- Use stuffed pasta, such as store-bought ravioli or tortellini.
How to make it gluten-free
- Use gluten-free pasta. All other ingredients in this recipe are naturally gluten-free.
Other butternut squash pasta recipes you might like
- Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta with Sausage and Spinach
- Butternut Squash and Black Bean Orzo with Sausage and Spinach
- Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta Shells Stuffed with Sausage, Spinach, and Tomatoes
- Creamy Butternut Squash and Sausage Soup with Orzo and Spinach
- Creamy Butternut Squash Orzo with Sausage
Creamy Butternut Squash Italian Sausage Pasta
Make butternut squash puree
- I recommend doing this step in advance. Here is how you make butternut squash puree.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook it in salted water according to the package instructions, usually about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain. Proceed with the rest of the recipe while the water is boiling.
- Crumble the sausage into large pieces or remove the sausage from the casings and slice it.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat in a large, high-sided skillet.
- Add sliced sausage and cook on medium heat for about 4 minutes on one side, without turning, to get the sausage slices browned. Flip over to the other side and cook for 2 more minutes.
- To the skillet with sausage, add 1 cup of butternut squash puree, 1 cup of unsweetened coconut milk, minced garlic, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, and 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme (just leaves, no sprigs). Stir and bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
- Add spinach gradually until it wilts, on low-medium heat, and stir everything well. Cook for about 3 or more minutes. Make sure the garlic is cooked to your liking.
- Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add more seasonings to taste (nutmeg, red pepper flakes, and fresh thyme).
- Add cooked and drained pasta and stir it in. Top with the remaining 1 tablespoon fresh thyme and red pepper flakes.
Make butternut squash puree in advance
- The total cooking time does not include the time required for roasting the butternut squash and making the butternut squash puree. I recommend that you do that in advance.
- Because you will be roasting whole butternut squash, you will have more than you need (1 cup) for this recipe. Refrigerate or freeze the leftover butternut squash puree in an airtight container.
You can use either fresh or dried thyme
- Use 2 tablespoons of thyme leaves (no sprigs) if using fresh thyme. Half for the sauce, half for sprinkling on top as garnish.
- If using dried thyme, use ½ teaspoon of dried leaves (not powdered) or ¼ teaspoon of powdered dried thyme.
How to make it ahead
- If you want to make it ahead, I would suggest prepping the following steps a day or 2 in advance: Prep all the steps above the "Assembly" section in advance. This includes making the butternut squash puree, cooking pasta (al dente in this case!), and cooking sausage.
- Then, when you are ready to serve, you can complete the recipe following the "Assembly" section of the recipe instructions - which should take under 10 minutes!
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed. It should not be used as a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.