Butternut Squash and Spinach Carbonara

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In a perfect world I would eat pasta every single day. Seriously, I just cannot get enough of it. During the dark days when I was on a no-carb, no-sugar, no-fat diet, the first thing I did when it ended was have a huge bowl of pasta with plenty of butter and a ton of cheese and black pepper.

While I think enjoying anything in moderation is okay, pasta is something that’s hard for me to not eat excessively. It’s just so good! As a result, I’ve tried to prepare it in healthier ways (i.e., less cheese, more veggies) and, you guys, I think I’ve come up with one of my favorite ways of eating it: butternut squash carbonara.

Anyone that has had carbonara knows how sinfully and richly delicious it is. The traditional method involves tossing hot pasta with pancetta or bacon fat, bacon bits, egg, and cheese to create a luxurious and decadent sauce. While this version still has fat and cheese (bacon and parm…. but in moderation!), the use of whole wheat pasta, butternut squash, and spinach makes it a healthier alternative.

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Butternut Squash and Spinach Carbonara

Adapted from Bon Appetit, serves 6

  • 4 oz. thick cut bacon or pancetta, diced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 2-lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into ½” pieces
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 lb whole wheat pasta (fettucine, linguine, or spaghetti)
  • 2-3 cups fresh, baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmessan, plus more for serving

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, add pancetta, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8–10 minutes. Add sage and continue to cook for a minute or so more. Using a slotted spoon, remove from pan and set aside, blotting bacon and sage with paper towels to remove excess grease.

Remove the majority of bacon grease (leave a few teaspoons), add squash and onion to skillet; lightly season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, 8–10 minutes (add garlic the final minute or so of cooking). Add broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until squash is soft and liquid is reduced by half, 15–20 minutes. Let cool slightly, then purée in a blender until smooth. Reserve skillet (no need to wash it at this point).

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta water.

In the reserved skillet, combine pasta, squash purée, and 1/4 cup pasta water and cook over medium heat, tossing and adding more pasta water as needed, until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes (I found I needed less than 1/2 cup pasta water to get the sauce to the perfect consistency). Mix in 1/4 cup parmesan and spinach (I like my spinach just barely wilted, so add earlier if you like yours more cooked); season with salt and pepper.

Serve pasta topped with reserved pancetta and sage. Add additional parmesan cheese and pepper, if desired.

Just a note: I found my leftovers got very clumpy when they cooled, but actually reheated surprisingly nicely.

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2 responses to “Butternut Squash and Spinach Carbonara”

  1. Liz says :

    I love the combination of ingredients. In a perfect world I would also eat lots of pasta but why is the world not perfect or what makes a perfect world? PASTA? Have a lovely weekend!

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