Walnut Sage Pesto Pasta with Roasted Delicata Squash
Whole wheat pasta is tossed with homemade walnut-sage pesto and topped with roasted delicata squash! This vegetarian pasta recipe comes together quickly, but is elegant enough to be served for special occasions.
Say hello to your new favorite fall pasta: walnut sage pesto pasta with roasted squash!
Due to popular demand, I’m bringing back the Weeknight Wednesday series (after mentioning it briefly when I shared this broiled salmon recipe!) and sharing another deceivingly simple pasta dish that is packed with my favorite fall flavors.
Whole wheat pasta (any shape or size!) is tossed with walnut-sage pesto and topped with crispy sage leaves and roasted delicata squash. If you’ve haven’t tried delicata squash (they are the small, oblong yellow-and-green ones!), they are one of the most weeknight friendly winter squash varieties as they require minimal fuss and zero peeling. The skin is actually thin and edible.
Aka, it does not induce the ‘oh my god, I’m going to cut my finger off chopping this‘ anxiety induced by other winter squash varieties.
The dish appears more time intensive than it actually is! If you multi-task, you can put this entire dinner on the table in less than 45 minutes! It’s healthy, high in natural fiber (thanks to the whole wheat pasta!), healthy fats (walnuts!), and very hearty.
It also happens to be vegetarian. Personally, I think it would make an excellent vegetarian main course option for the upcoming holidays.
Truthfully, I was just as much a fan of eating this dish as I was looking at it. The contrast of the beautifully green walnut-sage pesto with the caramelized delicata squash was beautiful. Top it with crispy sage leaves and a sprinkling of parmigiano-reggiano cheese and I’m in heaven.
The homemade walnut-sage pesto was my favorite part of this dish and requires only a handful of ingredients: flat-leaf parsley leaves, fresh sage, lots of walnuts, fresh garlic, and..wait for it…roasted walnut oil (in lieu of traditional olive oil)!
Walnut oil is made by, as you can guess, pressing walnuts for their natural oil. Thankfully you can buy roasted walnut oil (this brand is my personal favorite) at most grocery stores these days. It requires a bit of an investment up front, but when stored properly, it can last for long time.
This type of oil shouldn’t be used for cooking, but is amazing when added to homemade salad dressings or, in this case, adding tons of walnut flavor to this cozy fall pasta.
You could even slather this pesto on toast for a fall appetizer too –> yes, please do that!
I’m the first to admit that I’ve been a bit of a pesto snob in the past (100% basil, all the way), but I’m so happy to have finally discovered a fall and winter friendly pesto that can satisfy all of my usual pesto cravings.
If you’re wondering where the parmigiano-reggiano cheese fits into this, don’t worry! I would never leave out my favorite cheese of all time…especially in homemade pesto. That’s just not right.
Whenever I make pesto, I prefer to prepare the pesto without the cheese (this is best practice if you want to prepare the pesto ahead of time or if you are freezing an extra batch too!) and just add the freshly grated cheese as I’m tossing the pasta with the sauce.
I recommend going the extra mile and crisping up some fresh sage leaves as a garnish for this!
It requires heating up a small amount of olive oil in a frying pan and shallow frying the sage leaves in batches – but it is very simple to do and adds a lot of flavor. People will fight over them.
Nothing beats fresh sage at this time of year!
This pasta makes great leftovers (pesto pasta is my favorite leftover ever!).
You can even skip the delicata squash and serve the pasta with a side of my favorite roasted Brussels sprouts and squash side dish instead. Really, it’s totally up to you! Make it your own.
If you’re looking for other fall pasta inspiration, be sure to try this Brussels sprouts and sausage pasta – it is another incredibly time-friendly pasta recipe for this time of year!
For the Roasted Delicata Squash:
- 2 medium delicata squash, scrubbed and rinsed well
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
For the Walnut Sage Pesto:
- 1 packed cup of flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 3/4 cup raw or toasted walnut halves (if you’re not using roasted walnut oil, I recommend toasting the walnuts!)
- 2 – 3 medium garlic cloves
- 6-7 large, fresh sage leaves
- 1/2 cup roasted walnut oil (highly recommend La Tourangelle)
- kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
For the pasta:
- fresh sage leaves, for frying (I like to garnish each serving with 3-4 leaves)
- roughly 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb dried whole wheat penne (I used DeLallo’s whole wheat penne rigate!)
- 1/2 cup finely grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, plus more for garnishing
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.
- Trim the ends of the delicata squash and slice them in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard. Cut each half into 1/2-inch half-moon slices and place on the sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and spread them out evenly on the sheet pan so they are not touching. Roast at 425 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, flipping the squash halfway through, until they are tender and caramelized.
- As the squash is roasting, prepare the walnut-sage pesto. Combine the parsley leaves, walnuts, garlic cloves, and fresh sage leaves in the bowl of a large food processor, fitted with a blade attachment, and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the roasted walnut oil and process until mostly smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and transfer to a bowl. If you wish, you can add a touch of fresh lemon juice or zest as well!
- Line a small plate with paper towels. In a small non-stick pan, heat a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat until hot. Fry the sage leaves, in batches, in the oil until crisp (it should only take a few seconds). Transfer with a slotted spoon to the plate and seasoned lightly with salt. Set aside.
- As the squash is finishing roasting, add the dried whole wheat pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve roughly a cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta in a colander. Transfer the pasta back to the same pot, drizzle lightly with olive oil, and toss. Add the walnut-sage pesto and grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, and toss until the pasta is evenly coated in the sauce, adding some of the reserved pasta water as needed (this amount of pesto will generously coat all of the pasta, but the starchy cooking water will help create an even creamier sauce–so I highly recommend adding some!).
- Serve the pasta topped with roasted Delicata squash pieces, and garnish each serving with fried sage leaves. Top with grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese (as desired).
If cannot find or do not wish to purchase roasted walnut oil for this recipe, you can substitute it with extra virgin olive oil. However, if this is the case, I highly recommend toasting the walnut halves to account for the missing flavor!
Tips for Success:
- Whenever I make pesto, I prefer to prepare the pesto without the cheese (this is best practice if you want to prepare the pesto ahead of time or if you are freezing an extra batch too!) and just add the freshly grated cheese as I’m tossing the pasta with the sauce.
Walnut-sage pesto inspired by Epicurious.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 477 Total Fat: 34g Saturated Fat: 5g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 27g Cholesterol: 7mg Sodium: 350mg Carbohydrates: 38g Fiber: 7g Sugar: 3g Protein: 11g