For the longest time, up until my mid-twenties, I had only a tenuous grasp on the concept of seasons and what that meant for fruits and veggies. The year was spit into two halves: one comprised of summer and spring, when all the good stuff showed up, and one comprised of fall and winter, which was when the world became a barren wasteland devoid of anything fresh except apples and pumpkins for about a month. That’s because their freshness was irrelevant to me: veggies were freezer food, anyway.
However, if you spend any time at all on Pinterest or reading food blogs written by people with a substantially tighter grip on reality than I have, then you know that this is not really true. You also know that, come late fall/early winter, it’s all butternut squash everything. That’s how this recipe pulled me in: a winter veggie cream sauce with tortellini, one of my favorite things in the world? Let’s do this.
This recipe from Julia’s Album, while tasty, had a few flaws and suffered also due to some corner-cutting on my part. First of all, the original recipe calls for homemade squash puree, with separate detailed instructions on how to make it. Yeah, no. Two things: I read the recipe too late to figure this out, and even if I hadn’t, I didn’t have time to oven-bake a squash and then puree it. Instead, I went with baby food.
Yes, baby food. After all, that’s all it was: squash puree. What could go wrong?
Well, the flavors were there but the sauce was quite runny, I imagine because there wasn’t a hearty, pulpy puree (my bad). I also made my own half and half for a mix of whipping cream and 2% milk. For the people on my wavelength: all is not lost. The sauce can always be thickened.
One other issue I had: the spinach didn’t wilt properly, so if you’re having this problem, I’ve included instructions to avoid it. I think there was way too much spinach so I halved the amount for this recipe. If you like your pasta leafy, add more in.
Read on for some handy instructions, and a recipe that will leave you satisfied and not sluggish.
Butternut Squash Tortellini With Spinach
Sweet, savory, and... leafy. (Pictured: way too much spinach)
- 1 C butternut squash puree (can use baby food)
- 1 C half and half or more, as desired (or: combine cream and milk as noted above)
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- Pinch of paprika
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
- 2 1/2 C tortellini
- 4 oz fresh, uncooked spinach
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
- In a large skillet over medium heat, add the squash puree, 1 C half and half, nutmeg, paprika, and salt. Stir to combine.
- Add a little bit of lemon pepper seasoning, give it a taste, and then add a little more if need be. I found 1/4 tsp was exactly the right amount for my taste.
- Add the spinach on top of the mixture and, without incorporating into the sauce, cover the skillet with a lid and take it off the heat. This is so the spinach wilts.
- In a separate pot, boil the water and cook the tortellini according to package instructions and drain it once it’s done.
- Put the drained tortellini into the skillet.
- Put the skillet back over low heat and stir everything to combine it. This will help the spinach wilt if it hasn’t already, while heating up the sauce.
- If the sauce is too runny, add flour directly into the sauce, a teaspoon at a time, mixing thoroughly after each teaspoon. Once it’s sufficiently thick, it’s done!
- Serve topped with fresh parsley.