Recipe: Butternut Squash and Bacon One-Pot Pasta

This butternut Alfredo-style pasta recipe is velvety-smooth and satisfying, but it’s far from heavy. In fact, it’s actually healthy.

As sweater season descends upon us, we usher hearty flavors into our kitchen. Pasta enveloped in a thick, rich sauce of butternut squash and bacon seems just right for this time of year. 

This butternut Alfredo-style sauce is velvety-smooth and satisfying, but it’s far from heavy. In fact, it’s actually healthy. The dish packs 5 grams of fiber and a whopping 100 percent of your daily value for vitamin A. Yes, you will use a bit of bacon, but because you’re swapping out the butter you’d normally use to make the classic Alfredo sauce — and using the same amount of bacon fat instead — it’s basically a wash in terms of calories. Happily, the scant 1 tablespoon of bacon fat infuses the entire dish with smoky yumminess.

If you thought that was a cool trick, try this healthy hack: Microwave the butternut squash — whole — to soften the tough skin before slicing; you’ll save yourself from a potential knife injury. (Microwaving the squash also saves on cooking time, making this dish a fairly quick dinner fix.)

But the best part of the entire recipe might be this: There’s only one large pot to wash at the end.

Butternut Squash and Bacon One-Pot Pasta

Makes 6 to 7 servings


1 medium butternut squash

13 ounces (3 1/2 cups or about 1 box) penne pasta*

2 pieces center-cut bacon, chopped

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

3/4 cup 1% low-fat milk, warmed 30 seconds in microwave

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


Using a fork, poke a few holes in skin of squash. Place entire squash in microwave and cook on high power for 5 minutes. Remove squash using towel or oven mitts and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Place squash on cutting board and hold warm squash with oven mitt (or latex dishwashing glove) , slice squash in half and scoop out seeds. Place one squash half face-down on a microwave-safe plate and cook on high power in the microwave for 3 to 5 minutes until soft. (Reserve second squash half for another use.)

Scoop cooked squash into a blender or food processor and puree with about 3 tablespoons water until smooth; set aside. (Makes about 1 1/2 cups puree.)

In a large pot, cook penne (whole-grain and regular white pasta together) according to directions on the regular pasta box (as it takes a little longer to cook than whole-grain pasta). Drain pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup pasta water.

In same large pot, brown bacon over medium-high heat. Remove bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate, reserving bacon fat (about 1 tablespoon).

Whisk flour into bacon fat over medium heat. Slowly whisk in warm milk and cook, stirring, until beginning to bubble. Cook, stirring, about 2 minutes, until thick. Reduce heat to low and stir in reserved squash puree; cook until warm, about 2 minutes. Stir in cheese, thyme, salt, pepper and 1 to 2 tablespoons pasta water if sauce seems too thick. Gently toss in pasta and reserved bacon. Serve with additional shredded cheese if desired.

* For the best flavor and good nutrition, use half whole-grain and half regular white pasta.

Per serving (1/7 of recipe made with half whole-grain and half regular pasta without additional shredded cheese on top): Calories 285; Fat 6 g (Saturated 2 g); Sodium 336 mg; Carbohydrate 47 g; Fiber 5 g; Sugars 4 g; Protein 12 g

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Serena Ball, MS, RD is a registered dietitian nutritionist. She blogs at sharing tips and tricks to help readers find cooking shortcuts for making homemade, healthy and delicious meals. She develops recipes with moms and families in mind.

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