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Butternut squash and rocket pesto pasta recipe

Butternut squash and rocket pesto pasta recipe

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  • Recipes
  • Ingredients
  • Pasta
  • Vegetable pasta
  • Spinach pasta

This butternut squash and pesto pasta dish is a great vegetarian meal for the family. If you can't live without meat, you can add some crispy pancetta or prosciutto.

2 people made this

IngredientsServes: 4

  • 500g bow-tie pasta
  • 80ml olive oil
  • 700g butternut squash, peeled, cut into 2cm pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 60g rocket leaves
  • 20g basil leaves
  • 30g pine nuts, toasted
  • 35g grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 120g baby spinach leaves

MethodPrep:15min ›Cook:15min ›Ready in:30min

  1. Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water for 12 minutes or until just tender; drain and return pasta to the pan.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook the pumpkin and half the garlic, stirring, for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add water. Reduce heat to low and cook, partially covered, for 5-7 minutes or until pumpkin is tender.
  3. Place rocket, basil, pine nuts, grated Parmesan, lemon juice, remaining oil and garlic in the bowl of a food processor; pulse and blend mixture to make a semi-smooth pesto. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the spinach, pesto and sauteed pumpkin to the pasta; toss gently to combine. Serve.

Parmesan cheese:

Parmesan cheese is not truly vegetarian, as it contains animal rennet. To make this dish 100% vegetarian, omit the cheese or find a suitable vegetarian substitute made without animal rennet. In supermarkets look for the 'parmesan style hard cheeses' which are suitable for vegetarians.

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Reviews in English (0)

Arugula pesto (rocket pesto)

I'm sure we all have them: days when I am feeling uninspired or totally unmotivated to make anything complicated for dinner. On those days we often default to pasta with pesto as it's nice and quick and everyone likes it.

I have made my own pesto for the last few years, and this arugula pesto is probably the or one of a few favorites in our house. It's also one I nearly always have all the ingredients already. In other words, perfect for those nights without a plan.

Arugula pesto is really quick and easy to make, like most pestos. It has both a beautiful green color and a nice slight peppery taste, as you would expect being an arugula/rocket base. It's delicious mixed through pasta or use it wherever else you might use pesto, such as spread in sandwiches.

There are lots of variations you can make with pesto in terms of using different nuts, adding lemon juice etc. Some are traditional, others less so. I think for this, keeping the other ingredients pretty classic ie pine nuts, parmesan, garlic and olive oil works best.


Ek het vanaand hierdie gereg gemaak. Dit is voorwaar ‘n baie lekker gereg.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 115 g pancetta (Italian bacon), chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into ½” pieces (about 3 cups)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 340 g fettucine or linguine
  • ¼ cup finely grated Pecorino, plus shaved for serving

Heat oil in 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 toss to coat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta and sage to a small bowl set aside.
Add squash, onion, and garlic to skillet season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, 8 – 10 minutes. 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 season with salt and pepper. Reserve skillet.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
Combine pasta, squash purée, and ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid in reserved skillet and cook over medium heat, tossing and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes. Mix in ¼ cup Pecorino season with salt and pepper.
Serve pasta topped with reserved pancetta and sage, shaved Pecorino, and more pepper.

Rocket is a bitter leaf - too bitter in fact for a lot of people. After I received mixed comments on this recipe - I did some research into this.

And what I found out is that some people simply don't like bitter food, while others love it. Scientists believe that this - whether you like bitter food - or not - comes down to our genes.

The taste of rocket can also vary from season to season. Freshly grown summer rocket can taste a lot stronger than that grown in the winter (source: The Independent).

If you know that you find bitter food difficult to stomach you could try substituting some of the rocket with basil leaves.

Kale Pesto Bowties with Roasted Butternut Squash

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This kale pesto is made with basil, almonds and plenty of parmesan to give an amazing flavour! Serve mixed with bowtie pasta and topped with roasted butternut squash for a little creamy sweetness.

Pasta is such a wonderful thing, isn’t it? My favourite thing to do is curl up on the sofa with a big bowl of pasta. It’s such a good vehicle for all kinds of flavour and always makes me excited to eat dinner. Whether it’s a classic beef lasagne or a base for a creamy skillet chicken dish, it’s going to put a smile on mine and Will’s faces which is all I really want from cooking, you know?

Will and I have been carb loading. At least that’s what we’ve been calling it since we’ve been training for a half marathon.

I’ve been told by several people that you actually only need to carb load the day before you’re doing a long run but better safe than sorry right? These kale pesto bowties were one of our carb filled dinners which also happened to be filled with loads of vegetables and protein and all that good stuff.

Anyway, we did our half marathon on Sunday and it went pretty well. I found it tougher than I thought I would but luckily I was running with my dad who really helped me to keep going and was so super encouraging.

It was really special to get to do something like this with my dad. He’s recently started running (he did his first marathon on his 70th birthday!!) and I’m so proud of him so it meant a lot to both of us to run the half marathon together even though I found it really hard!

Anyway, whether you’re carb loading or not this recipe is the perfect simple dinner. I’m having a bit of kale obsession at the moment (I recently made this baked gnocchi with kale and it’s SO GOOD!) so it was only a matter of time before I threw it in a pesto.

This version uses blanched almonds instead of pine nuts but otherwise keeps pretty classic with parmesan, garlic, basil and lemon.

Probably my favourite part of this dish though is that roasted butternut squash on top. It’s such a perfect sweet compliment to the earthy freshness of the kale pesto bowties. I love it!

How to make kale pesto with roasted butternut squash:

  • Start off by chopping your butternut squash and getting your oven preheated. Your squash will cook while you make everything else.
  • Once that’s in the oven get a pot of water on the heat for the pasta then you can concentrate on your pesto which simply involves blending all of your pesto ingredients together.
  • Once those tasks are done you simply cook you pasta and put everything together, easy peasy!

Love pasta as much as we do? Get loads more pasta recipes right>> here.

Keep scrolling to get the recipe…


If you’re anything like me then you’re always looking for ways to save money and avoid food waste so I want to make sure you’ve get plenty of ideas on how to use up any ingredients that are leftover from my recipes!

Spaghetti with Rocket and Walnut Pesto

Not many dishes have the power to bring back memories of home as a bowl of pasta Barilla, a brand that is one of the symbol of the Italian cuisine across the world. I grew up eating this pasta nearly every day. Our kitchen cupboards in Rome were always filled with Barilla in all shapes and forms. Nowadays I don’t eat pasta as often as I used to when I was young, but I continue to buy Barilla here in London.

Pasta for me is the ultimate Italian dish, one that is easy and quick to make. I like to season the pasta with a simple sauce, using good and seasonal ingredients: tasty ripe tomatoes, flavourful basil, juicy aubergines or a pesto sauce for a fresh, summer dish.

Barilla was founded in Parma in 1877 out of a shop that made bread and pasta. The Barilla production plant, the biggest pasta plant worldwide, is still there today. The city of Parma, in Emilia-Romagna, is famous all over the world for its food and rich gastronomical tradition, so much that it was recently proclaimed Creative City for Gastronomy by Unesco.

Parma is also where the Accademia Barilla is located, the first international center dedicated to the development and promotion of Italian Gastronomic Culture. Last week, the Accademia Barilla was the arena for the 5th edition of the Barilla Pasta World Championship which saw Slovenian Chef Jure Tomic win the 1st prize with the recipe “Fusilli integrali formaggio di capra e zucca” (wholemeal fusilli goat cheese and pumpkin). Italian Chef Caterina Amelio was crowned winner of the “Young Talented Chefs” competition.

I couldn’t be in Parma last week to attend the event, but I was happy to collaborate with Barilla on this post to share one of my favourite pasta recipes and to promote one of the most popular Italian brands.

Why do I love pesto sauce? It’s fresh, it requires no cooking, and has few ingredients. If you know how to make pesto (and it is very easy to do), you can pretty much create your own version, throwing together what’s available in your fridge.

It’s not just basil that can create this classic sauce. Among the many twists on the recipe that you could try, I love this rocket and walnut pesto sauce.

Substitute the basil for wild rocket for a stronger and peppery taste. Replace pine nuts with walnuts for a more nutty flavour and crunch. Blitz it together with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese (or pecorino), garlic and a splash of lemon juice. Voilà! Your pasta sauce is ready.

Serve with Barilla spaghetti cooked al dente and a generous grating of parmesan. A handful of crisp pancetta would be delicious too.

This Rocket and Walnut Pesto is also excellent as a pizza base or drizzled over a salad with cherry tomatoes and fresh cheese.


  • 2 big handfuls of rocket (arugula), washed
  • 1 clove garlic
  • small handful of walnuts, crushed
  • extra virgin olive oil, as needed
  • 2-3 tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
  • splash of lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • 160g Barilla spaghettoni n. 7


Using a mortar and pestle or a food processor, blitz the rocket leaves with a drizzle of olive oil. Add in the garlic and continue to grind. Now add in the walnuts, parmesan and lemon juice and continue to grind.

Add more olive oil if the mixture is too dry. Keep mixing until you achieve your desired consistency. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Transfer the pesto into a large bowl.

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box.

Drain the spaghetti and toss them with the pesto in the bowl. Serve immediately.

Disclaimer: this post was written in collaboration with Barilla. All opinions are my own.

Step 1

Begin by preheating the oven to 180c and lining two baking trays with parchment paper.

Step 2

Scatter the small butternut squash cubes onto one and the sliced red peppers onto the other. Drizzle both with oil and roast in the oven for 25 minutes.

Step 3

Meanwhile in a large saucepan on a medium heat add the extra virgin olive oil along with the white onion and crushed garlic. Sauté for a few minutes until the onion begins to turn translucent.

Step 4

Next add the dried sage, pearl barley and butter and combine.

Step 5

Pour in the stock and leave to simmer for 25 minutes or so until the pearl barley has absorbed the stock and is cooked.

Step 6

Whilst the risotto is cooking prepare the pesto by adding all of the ingredients including the roasted red peppers into the Ninja blender and blending until smooth. Empty into a bowl.

Step 7

Rinse the blender and next add half of the butternut squash to it and blend again until smooth.

Step 8

Pour into the risotto along with half of the pesto and stir until combined.

Step 9

Finish by plating up and topping with the remaining butternut squash chunks, pesto dollops and fresh basil. Enjoy!

Butternut Squash, Puy Lentil and Rocket (Arugula) Salad

I was staring at a butternut squash. It had lived in my fridge for some time. It was just sitting there uselessly. It gave me a hopefully look every time I opened the fridge door, but I resolutely ignored it. Until I was desperately needing inspiration for dinner one night.

I'll roast you I thought and had a look around the fridge to see who could join him in the roasting pan. Mini sweet peppers, an onion and a courgette. Perfect.

I'd usually toss these roast vegetables through pasta, but I really wanted a salad, so I mixed in a packet of ready to eat puy lentils with porcini mushrooms for a bit of interest and topped it with goat cheese (for me, not Graham) and rocket (also just for me and not Graham).

My husband and child just don't like peppery rocket. I don't get it. I think it's gorgeous stuff. So I kindly served Cooper and Graham spicy potato wedges instead of the lovely green stuff. You can't say I'm not good to them, although I had to bite my tongue when Cooper told me the black lumps (puy lentils) were disgusting and he wouldn't eat them. I had to bite my tongue even more when he started picking them out of his salad one by one. Grrrrrrrrrrr!

The crusty bread you can see in the picture is Cherry Tomato and Basil Focaccia from Dell'UGO who are known for their chilled pasta. They kindly sent me out three flavours to try, which will also be found in the chilled cabinets of supermarkets from the 18th of May. It was really crispy on the outside with a flavourful moist centre. I'd definitely serve them again. Really nice quality.

How to work without a recipe and find inspiration – slow roasted pork with kale pesto, roast butternut squash and greens

Lots of my students ask me how to move beyond cooking with a recipe, to the point where you can come up with your own combinations of ingredients and techniques to create a dish.

As I was cooking tonight, I realised that what I was making was a perfect illustration of how I do this. I have a kind of mental decision tree I now instinctively (and quickly) go through so I wanted to share it. I hope it helps you start to frame your thinking and help sharpen your instincts about what to put together. Don’t be scared off by all my notes below, but have a read, maybe print it off to pin on your fridge and think about it when you’re stood at the door of the fridge staring into it wondering what to make. Or, keep it with you in your bag if you are the kind of person who plans shopping lists on the train to work or when you’re actually in the shop itself.

Firstly, what do I fancy eating?

Today is cold here in California – finally! And I’m feeling a bit under the weather and in need of comfort but also want lots of veggies and low carbs after a weekend of indulgence. I also want something that my kids can eat tonight that I can then set aside and eat with my husband after they go to bed (they are only 2 and 3 so we don’t eat dinner together mid-week yet).

Secondly, what is my day going to be like?

Do I have time to stand at the stove? Do I have something in the freezer I’ve already made that I can use? Will I be able to get something prepped or cooked earlier in the day? I knew that I’d be out all morning then home this afternoon but would be busy. So I wanted something I could prep for 15 minutes earlier in the day (while my boys had breakfast) then throw in the oven early afternoon and leave to do its thing while I did other things. Then I’d only need to have 15 minutes to pull it together at dinner time.

Then, what flavours do I want to use and where can I get my spark of inspiration?

I went to a fabulous new bar, The Lexington House, near us a couple of week ago and ordered a dish that was one of the best things I’ve tasted this year. My cocktail fuddled memory from that night (and badly written note in my iPhone) tells me it was amazing. Dark, long-cooked, pork broth surrounding a pork-filled tortellini with slow roasted pork and a kale pesto. The flavours and textures worked beautifully. The freshness and acid of the pesto balanced out the fatty (in a good way) umami of the pork and the soft pork was balanced by the crisp baby kale leaves that were used to finish the dish. This was the photo I took that night (great way to remind yourself of good things you want to recreate at home as are photos of the description on the menu/trips to the website of the place you ate at).

The inspiration from The Lexington House

The technique for the homemade tortellini and long-cooked broth is something I’m not going to replicate on a Tuesday afternoon when I have my boys playing Lego around my feet. But that doesn’t mean I can’t still be inspired by the key parts of the dish. Namely:

  • the kale pesto – I make pesto all the time in my food processor so I can easily replicate this. My boys have been hopeless at eating their greens lately but they will always eat pesto – so it’s a great way of getting lots of raw greens into a small amount of food. I’ve started giving them kale pesto often and they lap it up – on toast, in pasta or soup or as a dip for raw carrots or cooked strips of butternut squash
  • I have this wonderful hands-off slow cooked pork shoulder recipe that is very similar to the soft pork I loved at the restaurant

So, two key elements I can use, both using techniques and recipes I already have. I’m just combining them in a new way.

Then, to add onto this (or often this is my first question), I ask myself – what do I have in the fridge that needs using?

I don’t want to go to the store every day to buy a long list of ingredients for a recipe so I plan for most of my week’s meals in advance so that I’ll have all I need. I knew I’d be having the fennel roasted pork in some format but hadn’t decided what, so I had the pork. I also have Brussel sprouts and butternut squash. I’m obsessed with roasted butternut squash at this time of year and am making it almost every day in some shape or form – to stir through pasta or purée into a soup or simply to toss through some rocket [arugula] for a salad with sherry vinegar.

So there are my veggies – restaurant food is typically light on the veggies with a dish, but in the real world I want to fill the bulk of my plate with veggies – not only for their nutritious benefits but also because they balance out the heaviness of the meat.

Finally, I check off what I’ve got in my imagined dish in terms of balance of textures and flavours:

  • pork – soft, umami, meatiness, richness, protein (check)
  • lemon kale pesto – freshness, acid, green, protein from the nuts (check)
  • roasted squash – colour, sweetness, carbiness, veg (check)
  • brussel sprouts – more veg and colour (check)

What’s missing for me is crunch, so I decide to leave the seeds in my squash before I roast it.

To dig into that last section a bit more, here is the mental checklist I use when I’m planning or when I’m tasting as I cook to make sure it feels balanced. I think about if the dish has ticked off these elements:

Nutrition – Does it contain – protein, healthy carbs (whole grains/root vegetables), a few colours of veggies, good fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts)

Texture – Are there soft, crunchy, crispy, cooked, raw elements

Flavours – Are there elements of these in the dish:

  • Sweet (i.e. roasted veg, honey, fruit)
  • Salty (i.e. salt, soy sauce, nam pla, Parmesan, anchovy)
  • Umami (i.e. soy sauce, nam pla, Parmesan, anchovy, tomato, crust on cooked meat)
  • Sour (i.e citrus juice, pickled veg, wine, tamarind)
  • Bitter (i.e vinegar, olive, beer, bitter greens such as dandelion) – to be honest I often struggle to get this one in except when I use citrus zest

Finally, freshness – never sure if this is a flavour or texture (i.e. fresh herbs or lemon or raw vegetables) but it lifts things

Don’t worry, this soon becomes instinctive – the more you cook, think and taste, the more you’ll be able to train yourself to think like this.

Here is the recipe for the resulting dish:

Slow roasted pork with kale pesto, roast butternut squash and greens (serves 4)

Active prep time 30 minutes (split 10 minutes getting the pork in, 10 minutes chopping the squash, 10 minutes making pesto)

Cooking time 2-4 hours (all hands-off so you can be doing other things)

Plated up and ready to go

Slow roasted fennel pork

This is also wonderful served with a fennel salad. Pork shoulder (shoulder butt) is a great cut for slow cooking – it melts down beautifully and is a relatively inexpensive cut so a great way of feeding a crowd.


1kg/2lb 3oz pork shoulder (pork shoulder butt in the US)

2 tablespoons fennel seeds

Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 170C [325F] (or you could use a slow cooker/crockpot)

2. Tip the fennel seeds, salt and pepper into a Le Creuset, or similar enamel lined pan with a lid and shake them around to mix them (see photo)

Pork rolled in fennel seeds, salt and pepper

3. Roll the pork in the pan so that is covered on all sides with the spices.

4. Put the lid on and put the pan into the oven for 3- 4 hours. No need to do anything much during that time. Check it after 2 hours (or so) and turn it over. It is ready when it is falling apart and golden. If it cooks a little longer it won’t be a problem.

5. Drain off the fat and roughly shred the pork by using a couple of spoons to pull the meat apart in chunks, be sure to scrape up the brown sticky juices at the bottom of the pan. The pork could be cooked a day ahead and reheated in the same pan if time worked better for you that way. Leftovers are great in tacos, stirred through pasta or even on sandwiches.

Feel free to swap the kale for any other green such as spinach or rocket [arugula]. You could also add some basil or parsley or substitute the lemon for white or red wine vinegar.

It’s hard to make pesto look good but it tastes amazing


around 300g [10 ounces] rocket [arugula] or baby kale

1 handful of almonds, walnuts or sunflower seeds

Grated zest and juice of one lemon, or half a tablespoon white wine vinegar

Pinch red chili pepper flakes

Half a teaspoon of sea salt and black pepper, adjust to taste

  1. Place the roughly chopped kale or rocket into a food processor.
  2. Add the nuts, lemon zest, lemon juice, red chili pepper flakes and salt and pulse to chop. With the machine on, drizzle in the olive oil through the funnel and process until smooth. Taste and season with lemon, salt and pepper
  3. Leftover pesto will keep well for a week in a narrow topped jar with a thin layer of oil covering it to stop the air getting to it. You can also freeze it. It is great stirred into pasta or soups or to top on crostini. My boys like it stirred through mashed potato or on their sandwiches.

Roasted butternut squash


a large pinch each of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200c [400f]. Chop the squash in half through its waist (imagine its a curvy lady!). Chop off the stalk at the top then cut each half in half lengthways.

2. Cut out the root then, leaving the seeds in place, cut each quarter into chunks (see photo). The bigger you cook them the longer they’ll take to cook but I like them pretty big so you get a nice balance of squishy sweet flesh and crispy char on the edges. Leaving the seeds in appeals to my laziness but also gives you a lovely crunchy toasty element.

chopped, seeds left in, ready for the oven

3. Lay on a parchment lined metal roasting pan – the type you’d cook cookies on. Drizzle with the oil, salt and pepper then use your hands to rub them around so they are all roughly coated

4. Roast for around 30 minutes then check them, turn them over and cook for another 10 minutes or until they are soft and starting to turn a dark caramel colour on the edges. Leftovers can be pureed with stock for a quick soup, or stir them through pasta or salad.

golden, squishy, crunchy, delish squash

Scatter the roasted squash on the bottom of your plate then top it with some baby kale or rocket [arugula] leaves or cooked Brussel sprouts or shredded fennel. Sprinkle a little lemon juice or sherry vinegar and salt on the leaves and squash. Blob some pesto around the plate on top of the greens. Place pieces of your cooked pork on top then finish with a generous dollop of the pesto, a drizzle of pan juices and some of the cooked squash seeds. You can also serve with some soft polenta instead of the greens,.

All the flavours and textures layered together

For my boys, they like things to be separate


You can now buy the equipment I use in this recipe through my shop. I’ve spent years testing my favourite bits of equipment so rest-assured that whatever I recommend is the best tool for the job and will give you great results without cluttering your kitchen with unused tools.

Get more recipes like this

Find more recipes for pork, butternut squash and kale here.

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How to Make Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash

This butternut squash and spinach pasta is super easy to make. The oven does most of the work so you can move on to more important tasks, homework, laundry, you get the drill!

  1. Roast the butternut squash.
  2. Make the pasta.
  3. Mix all together.
  4. Serve!

What else can I serve this with?

Can I sub in other veggies or nuts?

Yes! Any veggies you have in your fridge would work great, here are some suggestions:

  • cauliflower
  • kale
  • zucchini
  • acorn squash
  • pumpkin
  • sweet potatoes
  • brussels sprouts

If you don’t want to use pine nuts, here are some other nuts that would work well:


  1. Murphy

    Whether to kill, I don't know.

  2. Adne

    Where can I read about this?

  3. Falken

    Good business!

  4. Yunus

    It's unbearable.

  5. D'anton

    Bravo, it's just another sentence :)

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