Penne with Squash and Italian Chicken Sausage

Pasta night just got a lot more delicious.

Penne with Squash and Italian Chicken Sausage
Photo: Jennifer Causey; Food Styling: Melissa Gray; Prop Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller
Active Time:
1 hrs
Total Time:
1 hrs 40 mins

As the weather cools off, butternut squash tends to get all the attention, but this fall, we're highlighting some of the fantastic ways to use lesser-known squash varieties. This autumnal pasta dish makes the most of Red Kuri squash. This kind stands out for its bold color and teardrop shape. The nutty taste ("kuri" means chestnut in Japanese) makes it a good substitute for butternut squash.

Our Penne with Squash and Italian Chicken Sausage will be the special fall dinner you keep on repeat. This healthier pasta dish gets a boost of vegetables from Red Kuri squash, which cooks down to make a creamy, orange sauce resembling mac and cheese. The smooth sauce works well with the penne—the grooves help the sauce adhere to each piece of pasta. Adding a little heavy cream to the pasta sauce after it has been blended bolsters the overall creaminess of the dish. Garnishing with freshly ground black pepper, Parmesan, and parsley builds flavor throughout each bite.

This chicken sausage penne pasta would be great on a cold fall or winter day. Add a crunchy topping like toasted nuts; for extra nutrients, toss in some kale or spinach.


  • 2 medium-size red kuri squash or 2 small butternut squash cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed

  • 2 ½ tablespoons olive oil, divided

  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste and for serving

  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste

  • 1 pound uncooked penne rigate pasta

  • 1 pound uncooked Italian chicken sausage 

  • 1 medium-size red bell pepper, finely chopped (1¼ cups)

  • 1 medium-size yellow bell pepper, chopped (1¼ cups)

  • 1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped (2 cups)

  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic (from 2 garlic cloves)

  • 1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves

  • 1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh oregano leaves

  • 2 cups chicken stock

  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream

  • Finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

  • Parmesan cheese, grated with a Microplane grater


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush cut sides of squash with 1 tablespoon of the oil, and season evenly with pepper and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Place squash halves, cut side down, on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast until almost tender, about 30 minutes. Remove squash from oven; set aside until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Using a spoon, scrape flesh from 2 squash halves into a medium bowl; discard skin. Add pan drippings from sheet pan. Cut remaining halves lengthwise into 2 equal pieces. Carefully cut away skin from flesh, and discard skin. Cut squash flesh into ½-inch cubes; set aside.

  2. While squash roast, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high. Add pasta, and cook until very al dente (about 2 minutes shorter than package directions call for), and drain. Set aside.

  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large deep nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add sausage. Cook, turning occasionally, until sausage is well browned and a thermometer inserted in sausage registers 165°F, about 10 minutes. Transfer sausage from skillet to a plate lined with paper towels. Add remaining ½ tablespoon oil to skillet. Add red bell pepper to skillet, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cooked red bell pepper to a medium bowl, and set aside; reserve drippings in skillet. Add yellow bell pepper and onion to skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, and oregano. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add scraped squash flesh and pan drippings, chicken stock, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt to skillet, and bring to a boil over medium-high. Reduce heat to low. Simmer squash mixture, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15 minutes.

  4. Working in batches if necessary, pour squash mixture into a blender. Secure lid on blender, and remove center piece to allow steam to escape. Place a clean towel over opening. Process until smooth, about 1 minute. Place squash puree back in deep skillet; whisk in heavy cream, and bring to a simmer over low, whisking occasionally.

  5. Add cooked pasta to sauce, and cook over medium, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens and coats pasta, about 3 minutes. Slice sausage at an angle into ½-inch-thick pieces; stir sausage, cubed squash, and red bell pepper into pasta mixture. Add salt and black pepper to taste; remove from heat. Divide pasta mixture evenly among 4 bowls, and top with black pepper, finely chopped parsley, and desired amount of grated Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

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