October 18, 2021

Kale Pasta with Butternut Squash and Pecan Parmesan

If Fall had a pasta, it would be this dish. Cozy, comforting and delicious-- a must make whenever butternut squash is in season.
Serves 4

Kale Pasta with Butternut Squash and Pecan Parmesan. The perfect vegan Fall pasta. Roasted squash, garlicky kale tossed with pasta and homemade pecan parmesan.

Have I got a Fall-inspired pasta for you! This kale pasta is perfect for this time a year, a cozy bowl full of caramelized butternut squash, garlicky kale leaves and homemade pecan parmesan cheese. 

I subscribe to a handful of food magazines and the moment I saw a similar kale and butternut squash pasta in this month’s Bon Appetit, I knew I wanted to create a plant-based version. Though I consider myself to be predominantly plant-based, these days I’m mostly vegan and  I knew that a homemade pecan parmesan would be the perfect alternative to traditional parmesan cheese. 

Additionally, this vegan kale pasta would be the perfect holiday dinner, whether that’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, or otherwise. You know I’m big on pasta for feast meals and this one has all the Fall flavors that you’d expect for a celebration dish.

pan of pasta with kale and butternut squash

Make the Pecan Parmesan

So, I’ve been making nut-parms since I first discovered cashew parmesan, and the technique is similar here. First, place toasted pecans in a mini food processor and pulse until large chunks form. 

From there, add in nutritional yeast and a little olive oil, then pulse again to form a course crumble. Honestly, I use almost all of the parmesan on this pasta, but if you don’t end up using all of it then you can store it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or in the freeze for 3-4 months.

bowl of kale pasta with butternut squash and kale

Prepare the Butternut Squash and Kale 

This is where most of the prep time comes in, but it’s worth it. Oven roasting the butternut squash allows caramelization to take place; golden, crispy, browned cubes of squash that almost melt into the final kale pasta dish. 

While the squash is cooking, heat butter or non-dairy butter in a large skillet over medium heat. From there, add in the sliced garlic cloves along with the dried spices and cook until garlic is just golden, but not burnt. If you do burn the garlic, remove and start again as the taste will overpower the entire dish and you won’t be happy with the end results. 

To finish, add in the torn kale leaves and toss until kale is just wilted, about 4-5 minutes.

sheet pan of roasted butternut squash

Build The Pasta

Long time followers will know that the trick to restaurant worthy pasta is to finish cooking the pasta in the sauce. Yes, this even works for jarred sauce nights and once you learn this tip, you’ll never go back to regular pasta again. 

Undercook the spaghetti by 2 minutes according to package directions. For example, if the package says 11 minutes then cook for 9. Drain, reserving 1 cup of reserved pasta water. 

Finish by adding the cooked pasta to the kale skillet along with a little reserved pasta water and toss vigorously with tongs, adding more pasta water as needed if it gets dry, until pasta has finished cooking. 

This technique allows the noodles to soak up so much flavor and the reserved pasta water contains starches that helps the sauce to cling to the noodles.

kale pasta with butternut squash and kale

Toss It All Together

Finally, finish the kale pasta by adding in the cooked butternut squash and pecan parmesan along with fresh lemon juice and lemon zest. Another trick for incredibly-tasting pasta– stir in a little acid at the end. 

Fresh lemon juice and zest cut through the richness of the pasta and add a bright finishing flavor to the entire dish. Don’t skip it!

pan of kale pasta with pecan parmesan

Tips For How To Adjust The Recipe

This kale pasta does have a few steps as outlined here, but it comes together rather quickly once the pecan parmesan, butternut squash, and kale are cooked. And, instead of spaghetti, you can consider using rigatoni or farfalle (bowties) or penne.

Add Plant-Based Sausage 

For a very indulgent kale pasta, brown plant-based Italian sausage, like Field Roast or Beyond in a skillet, using a wooden spoon to break down the sausage until crispy. Then, add the kale to the same skillet, scraping up any browned bits from the sausage. Now, add the rest of the ingredients as directed.  

I did this version in the testing phase and oh my word, the sausage pairs incredibly well with the squash and kale. Since not everyone enjoys meat alternatives, I didn’t add it to the final recipe but recommend doing so if you like them. 

Add More Red Pepper Flakes

If you like heat, then I recommend adding in a bit more red pepper flakes before serving; 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper is a perfect fiery hot. 

kale pasta with butternut squash and kale

More Vegan Fall Pasta Recipes:

I know you are going to love this kale pasta with butternut squash and pecan parmesan as much as we do! After you try them, come back to leave a rating and a review. Your feedback helps other readers and seeing you make my recipes makes my day. 

Print

Kale Pasta with Butternut Squash and Pecan Parmesan

  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: Serves 4 1x
  • Category: dinner, pasta, healthy
  • Method: stove top, oven
  • Cuisine: American, Thanksgiving
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Kale Pasta with Butternut Squash and Pecan Parmesan. The perfect vegan Fall pasta. Roasted squash, garlicky kale tossed with pasta and homemade pecan parmesan.


  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: Serves 4 1x
  • Category: dinner, pasta, healthy
  • Method: stove top, oven
  • Cuisine: American, Thanksgiving
  • Diet: Vegan
  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: Serves 4 1x
  • Category: dinner, pasta, healthy
  • Method: stove top, oven
  • Cuisine: American, Thanksgiving
  • Diet: Vegan
Scale

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup pecan halves, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded and cut into small cubes
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 tablespoons dairy-free butter (I love Earth Balance & Miyoko’s best)
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 large bunch kale, ribs and stems removed and leaves torn into ~2-inch pieces
  • 12 ounces whole wheat pasta, or other long pasta
  • 12 tablespoons fresh lemon juice + lemon zest, for topping

Instructions

  1. Make the pecan parmesan. First, toast the pecans by placing them on a baking sheet and toast for 6-8 minutes, until lightly golden but not burnt. Add the pecans into a small food processor and pulse until pecans are roughly chopped. Then, add in the nutritional yeast, 1 teaspoon olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt and process until a course parmesan texture appears. Set aside.
  2. Make the squash. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, toss the cubed butternut squash with remaining olive oil, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper together until well coated. Then, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast until tender and golden brown, about 30 minutes, tossing halfway through.
  3. While the squash is roasting, cook the pasta. First, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta; cook until very al dente, about 2 minutes undercooked according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.
  4. Lastly, make the kale. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Next, add the remaining dried teaspoon of oregano, garlic, remaining 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper and red pepper flakes and cook 30-60 seconds or so, taking care not to burn. Then, add in the kale leaves and cook until just wilted – about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Assemble! Add the pasta along with the cooked butternut squash and 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water to the kale skillet. Toss vigorously with tongs and add more reserved pasta water as needed to make the sauce and continue cooking the pasta until al dente, about 2-3 minutes total. As needed, add in a splash of pasta water to keep cooking the pasta and create a silky sauce. You may not need all of the reserved pasta water. Remove from heat and add in 1/2 of the pecan parmesan, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Taste, adjusting seasonings as needed– more salt/pepper/red pepper/lemon juice/parmesan as desired. Finally, divide among 4 bowls and top with more pecan parmesan and serve!

Notes

Pecan Parmesan is heavily adapted from Oh She Glows. 

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Meet Alex Caspero

Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, Plant-Based Chef and Yoga Instructor. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.

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