Butternut Squash Skillet Dinner

Yep, that’s right. This creamy, divine butternut squash and penne pasta is made start to finish in one skillet. Which makes me want to weep because I love skillet meals just so, so much. Avoiding having to clean that extra pasta boiling pot is reason for some serious heel clicks (a dangerous feat for one as unathletic and uncoordinated as I). And just so you know how I really feel about this recipe, I had to make a concerted effort not to type that entire second sentence in all CAPS just to emphasize how seriously serious (in a good way) this is.

I’ve had a love affair with the butternut squash and pasta combo for forever. Add in lean chicken sausage, spinach and a smattering of other ingredients and this is quite possibly the only thing I want to eat all weekend.

Butternut Squash Skillet Dinner

The inspiration came from several other one-skillet pasta meals that I love, and the fact that the butternut squash lends a beautiful creaminess to the made-by-itself-sauce without pouring in quarts of heavy cream (sidenote: I have nothing against heavy cream, trust me, I’m just trying to avoid it for a day or two) is another reason to leap for joy.

This is all sorts of comfort wrapped up in one skillet. And did I mention? You’ll only have one little skillet to wash up. That’s pretty sweet considering you are getting one of the most fab meals of January out of the deal.

Long live butternut squash. In pasta. With sausage. And spinach. And cheese.

P.S. Today is my youngest son’s birthday. He turns five and spent weeks agonizing over whether to have an eyeball cake or creme brulee for his birthday “cake.” Very serious decision when you are his age. I posted about it on FB. You responded. Oh yes, you did. I’ll be posting on FB a bit later today with his birthday creation. Happy birthday to my most sweetest and gentlest of little boys!

Butternut Squash Skillet Dinner

What To ServeSteamed vegetable or this Perfect Roasted Asparagus
Simple green salad or this Marinated Caprese Salad 
Sliced Cheese

One Year Ago: Baked Tilapia with Ginger and Cilantro  
Two Years Ago: Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake
Three Years Ago: Chicken Cordon Bleu Bread Bowls

Skillet Butternut Squash and Penne Pasta

Yield: Serves 6-ish

Skillet Butternut Squash and Penne Pasta

This isn't an overly saucy dish. It really isn't meant to be although it is definitely not dry, in my opinion. It's like a lightly creamy pasta dish with squash and other delicious flavors. If you'd like a little more sauce, add in a bit more liquid as the butternut squash cooks in step #2. As the squash cooks down, it will become kind of creamy and thicken the broth that was added in (I'm not talking adding in cups, but another 1/2 cup or so would be good for a little extra). That's where letting the pasta rest for 5-10 minutes before serving will help.


  • 1 large shallot (or 1/4 cup minced yellow or white onion)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
  • 1 pound chicken sausage (if links, remove the casing)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 5 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 12 ounces penne pasta
  • 3 cups peeled and diced butternut squash
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped fresh baby spinach
  • 2 large sage leaves, torn into small pieces, or 1/4 teaspoon dried, more or less to taste
  • 1 cup (about 4 ounces) shredded or cubed fontina or mozzarella cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Freshly grated Parmesan for serving, if desired


  1. In a large 12-inch nonstick skillet, combine the shallot, garlic, sausage, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, breaking up the meat into small pieces, and cooking until the sausage is cooked through, 5-7 minutes. Scrape the mixture to a plate and return the skillet back to the heat.
  2. Add the chicken broth and pasta and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking and the pasta clumping together. Stir in the squash and simmer 5-7 minutes longer until the squash and pasta are both tender. As the squash breaks down, it will help bring a creaminess to the sauce and pasta so add more liquid, if necessary, while cooking if the mixture seems dry.
  3. Stir in the spinach and sage and cook for 1-2 minutes until the spinach is wilted. Add the sausage/shallot mixture back to the skillet and stir in the fontina or mozzarella cheese and add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Off the heat, cover the skillet with a lid or foil and let the pasta sit for 5-10 minutes. Give it a good stir and serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Recipe Source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

37 Responses to Skillet Butternut Squash, Sausage and Penne Pasta

  1. Sheila says:

    This working mom greatly appreciates one skillet meals. This (as always with your pictures) looks so yummy. I’m making your ham and pasta skillet (1st time) for company on Sunday afternoon with your cornmeal bread. I have unsuccessfuly looked “high and low” for chicken sausage around these parts. This failure justifies a great excuse to use regular Italian sausage which I love. :-)

  2. Sheila says:

    Oops, I was rushing to get chicken marinated before work and forgot to wish your little one Happy Birthday. What beautiful character traits your home environment is developing within your children! Your mother’s heart must overflow with joy.

  3. Kim in MD says:

    I love your one skillet dishes, Mel! They are one dish wonders that pack so much more flavor than if the pasta is cooked separately. This recipe looks so colorful and delicious! I am going to make this for dinner tonight, which by the way will be the third MKC dinner this week!

  4. Kim in MD says:

    Like Sheila, I was rushing when I commented. Happy Birthday to your sweet little guy! I can’t believe he is five already. Enjoy his special day!

  5. I bought squash on a market today and had no idea what to make out of it. Now I have an idea :)

  6. Jenn A says:

    Happy birthday to the littlest one! I am definitely going to be making this sometime soon! YUM!

  7. Hey Mel…I’m probably going to want a whole grain pasta( or maybe even wheatberries) in this for myself. Do you advise more liquid or would I be better off cooking these longer-cooking-time options a little on their own before adding them?

    • Mel says:

      kelly – I don’t cook often with whole grain pastas because they tend to get sort of gummy but if you have experience doing so, I would use a modification that’s worked in the past – like the extra liquid or longer cooking time or both. Good luck!

  8. This looks so good, thanks for sharing – I’m pinning it to try very soon!

  9. I can’t believe this whole meal is made in one skillet! This is a dream come true! And it looks delicious – I love butternut squash!

  10. Beth W. says:

    We enjoyed this today for Sunday lunch. The chicken sausage links I purchased were a sweet flavored sausage and brought a nice flavor to the dish. I haven’t cooked with squash since I made babyfood! Even my picky kid thought it was ok. Was surprised how the squash sort of melted into the meal. Was glad I didn’t have to sell the chunks of it :-) We are trialing your quinoa butternut squash stew tonight for dinner… a bit overboard for squash in one day, but am cooking it for freezer meals and have to try it first. I have heard it is also magnificent.

  11. Kristin says:

    I made this today, and it was SO GOOD! I could not stop eating it. I left out the sausage since I’m not a big fan of it to make a meatless lunch. I also chose mozzarella instead of fontina. This seriously is my new favorite pasta recipe. Thank you so much!

  12. A says:

    I had my parents over for an impromptu lunch. I hadn’t been to the grocery store in over a week, but miracle of miracles, I had all of the ingredients for this dish and I have to say I am so glad I did, it was an instant success. Everyone around the table was ooing and awing. I used turkey sausage instead of the chicken and uses a combo of penne and angel hair pasta since I didn’t have enough penne. I also added some water since I only had two cans of chicken broth. Despite the minor modifications due to my limited food supply, it came out beautifully. I’ll be making this again soon. Thanks for saving my bacon!

  13. Melanie says:

    I made this tonight, and it was really good. A nice change up from some of the other pasta dishes I’ve been making lately. I used a parmesan chicken sausage, mozzarella and dried sage. My kids (8, 6 and 4) all really liked it and ate it without complaint. They have more experience with spinach and other veggies in their food so it wasn’t a big leap for them. They don’t always enjoy their experiences, mind you :-) They did appreciate this dish, though!

  14. Liz says:

    Excited to try this! I live in Asia and we don’t have butternut squash or chicken sausage but I am going to try pumkin and pork sausage – hopefully those substitutions will work ok :)

  15. bluebaker says:

    This dish looks really good. comfort food, but on the healthier-ish side.
    My suggestion for a video how to would be what is the best way to deal with these hard as a rock squash? do you peel them, cut them first, or what. I’ve seen Alton Brown take an axe and a mallet to one, but I think he was just kidding around.

  16. Eleanor Bryan says:

    This was delicious! I could not find chicken sausage, so I used small chunks of chicken tenders and cooked them with the shallots and garlic. The butternut squash was perfectly cooked and added so much to the flavor of this dish. Thanks for a keeper!

  17. Carissa says:

    I was skeptical about this one and sure that my picky-eater husband (at least picky when it comes to veggies) wouldn’t like it. He gave it a 9! Will be making this one again. Thank you.

  18. Emily says:

    Delicious! I couldn’t find chicken sausage anywhere so I used pork sausage and bought precut squash. My kids were a little uneasy with the squash but they ate it anyway with very little complaint…they have issues with cooked veggies, they think I’m trying to poison them. I will certainly make this again.

  19. I made this last night and the butternut squash definitely did not cook in the time you suggested–it was rock hard while the pasta was mushy. I think it would be best if the squash was roasted, steamed, or cooked separately and then added with the pasta just to heat through and to continue to meld into the dish. Otherwise, it was very tasty with lots of good flavor, and I will most likely make it again with this modification.

  20. Lucy says:

    I made this last week and it was one of the best pasta dishes I’ve made in a long time. I love the squash and spinach–it made for a unique and delicious meal. And I love that it’s made in one skillet. My two-year old even wanted leftovers of it for breakfast! Thanks for a great recipe.

  21. Aubri says:

    This was good Mel! All but one of my 5 kiddos gobbled it up (including my 2 9 month olds who inhaled it!) I definitely will cut the squash smaller next time because my pasta got a little too done before the squash was cooked…but it was really good! Also, I couldn’t find chicken sausage, but I found some Jennie-O- Italian Seasoned Ground Turkey, and it worked great!

  22. Kelly says:

    This was really, really good. Love the one pot pasta recipes! Keep them comin’!!!!

  23. Lori says:

    I tried this recipe yesterday with some minor modifications , used thyme instead of sage and rotini instead of penne and italian instead of chicken sausage. Turned out fabulous!!!!

  24. Laura says:

    We loved it! We couldn’t find any “normal” chicken sausage (only weird flavors like spinach and feta), so used mild italian, and it was great that way. I agree with Lauren; the squash didn’t cook quite fast enough, but I don’t think it was as bad for me as for her. We just cooked it a little longer and the pasta was slightly overcooked while the squash slightly under. We are quickly falling in love with this site :)

  25. Anne says:

    Mel, I made this tonight because I had sweet italian sausage on hand and I had butternut squash. And of course I had baby spinach and chicken broth because they are staples in my house. But from that point on I had to wing it – no penne, but I did have 3/4 bag of egg noodles; no fontina, but I did have swiss. I messed up from the start and cooked the pasta and squash in water and then realized what I was doing, but I just kept the sausage in the pan with the onions and garlic and threw in the broth, added the mostly cooked pasta and squash, added the swiss and parm and stirred it around and then threw in the spinach. Seriously, it was (is) fantastic. Night after night, I am serving up something special. Thanks Mel!

  26. Mickey says:

    Thank you so much for the recipe! I purchased pre-cubed butternut squash which was on sale because I was interested in trying it, but had never cooked or eaten it before. After getting it home, I searched for recipes involving the squash and came across your one-skillet one. It was perfect. I couldn’t find sage leaves so I had to settle for ground sage spice in a jar, but it still tastes so yummy. And as a bonus, my dish came out looking exactly as yours in the pictures, which never happens when I prepare a dish from a cookbook with pictures for some reason; it’s such a pretty dish which makes it even more appetizing! Thanks again, this is a keeper.

  27. Kathy says:

    This was so delicious and very light on calories. I subbed elbow macaroni for the penne since it was all I had on hand. And for the folks who found the squash tough, just pop a lid on the skillet for 2 or 3 minutes of the cook time and it’ll soften up.

    Turned out great – thanks for posting!

  28. Ryland H says:

    This was insanely good — I thought it was restaurant quality. My 5 year old ate two bowls full. I used whole wheat penne, sundried tomato chicken sausage and swiss chard in place of the spinach. I also used cheddar cheese because my son is lactose intolerant. It was excellent!

  29. Katie says:

    This has become a “go to” in our household since discovering it! Some minor modifications that we’ve enjoyed are:

    -Squash in the skillet MUCH earlier (and still popping the top on the skillet for a few minutes at the end to get it cooked!)

    -Pretty much alway subbing some of the chicken stock for white wine (and using white wine when more liquid is needed)

    -I’ve subbed various cheeses (parmesan, gruyere, etc.), pretty much all cheese is good cheese in my book…

    -Whenever I have it, I’ll add just a drizzle of heavy cream (or even half and half or similar works) to the skillet in the last minute or so of cooking to give it more of a cream sauce (which is also an easy substitute if you don’t have cheese or just want to add parmesan to taste!) – definitely not as “healthy” this way, but it’s pasta and a TINY bit of heavy cream goes a long way and it gives the dish a deliciously luxurious feel!

  30. Michelle says:

    I made this tonight and loved it! My boys didn’t like the “green stuff” but they loved the rest. I only did half of the amount of sausage and slightly less pasta but kept the veggies the same. So yummy!

  31. Cheryl A says:

    Could you sub feta for the mozzarella? I’m thinking about what I have on hand; I will be subbing red kale for spinach! Thanks, looking forward to trying it.

  32. Cheryl A says:

    Feta works just fine, but am going to try goat cheese as well. I roasted the cubes of squash, and the flavor is really nice.

  33. Ashlee says:

    I made this last night and it was soooooo yummy! We had a whole bunch of leftover butternut squash…just enough for our favorite soup! It’s quick, easy, yummy and (if that isn’t enough) has cream cheese. I don’t have a super official blog, just a collection of recipes, but here’s the link: http://websterwaterhole.blogspot.com/2011/12/butternut-squash-soup.html?m=1
    I wanted to share a family favorite recipe since so many of yours have become our favorites!

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