Tortellini With Butternut Squash and Spinach (or: the Discovery That Veggies Are Not a Sometimes Food)

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?

Is this where I went wrong? America, you decide.

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


  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, add the squash puree, 1 C half and half, nutmeg, paprika, and salt. Stir to combine.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. In a separate pot, boil the water and cook the tortellini according to package instructions and drain it once it’s done.
  5. Put the drained tortellini into the skillet.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!
  8. Serve topped with fresh parsley.

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