Spicy Butternut Pasta with Chicken.
We adore this butternut squash chicken pasta bake. Thrown together in one skillet, it’s made with spinach, sprinkled with cheese and pickled jalapeños for the perfect spice. Super delicious weeknight meal!
Never going to pass up a cheesy pasta skillet!
This one deserves all the exclamation points. We have a cheesy, melty pasta bake made with smoky butternut squash, shredded chicken, lots of fresh spinach and ton of pickled jalapeños! This skillet is dreamy.
The base of this recipe comes from the NY Times. It’s one that Lacy had bookmarked a few years ago, then finally made last year and RAVED about.
It sounded so delicious that I think I first made it the night after she told me about it. We both added chicken to bulk up the dish a bit. I changed a few spices, as well as the cheeses and we both used pickled jalapeños which are a game changer.
I swear, those pickled jalapeños in a jar just taste like a delicious nacho – even if you never liked them on your nachos. They bring an extra cheesy nacho-like flavor to the whole pasta skillet and it really makes it.
P.S. if you’re making this for kids or for someone who doesn’t like things spicy, just leave the jalapeños out. No need to replace them with anything! I’ve made it for the kids sans peppers and it’s still great.
What I love about this pasta skillet is just how much is IN the skillet. It’s a baked pasta that qualifies as a full meal – super satisfying, balanced and extra delicious.
This is what you’ll find jam-packed into this meal that is bursting with flavor:
Butternut squash loaded with smoky spices.
Shallots and garlic.
Pasta! I like penne.
Lots of fresh spinach.
A delicious mix of cheeses!
Pickled jalapeños to top it all off.
Oh my GOSH.
This flavor combination is absolutely incredible. It is so good. Mixed all together, baked until melty and cheesy and warm… I can’t get enough. You will love it!
It comes together pretty quickly too!
The first part is ALL about the squash. I season the squash with lots of smoked paprika, cumin and more, then let it cook in the skillet with shallots and garlic until softened. This will take a few minutes to soften. I like to make sure the squash is diced into cubes so it happens relatively fast.
Then! Once the squash is cooked, you mash half of it. YES. Mash half of it up. Add some stock, let it simmer and mash. Look at my photo up there! Use a wooden spoon and a fork if needed, then smash until creamy. This will become part of the sauce and really disperse the squash flavor throughout the pasta. It’s delish.
The rest is simple. Parmesan cheese. Stir in some chicken, spinach and your cooked pasta. Toss it all together.
For the chicken, I almost always use rotisserie chicken for this recipe. Or leftover chicken. It’s just the easiest way! For the pasta, I find that a cut like penne works best, but truly you can’t really go wrong here. Most short cut pasta noodles will work here. So – raid the pantry!
I stir in fresh spinach, but frozen will also work. This entire skillet is going in the oven so everything will melt together.
To finish things off, I sprinkle with shredded cheese. I love a mix here – cheddar and mozzarella. Again though, a cheese that you have on hand and enjoy, will mostly like work. Italian blend, cheddar jack – the cheese will be good!
And the best part: the jalapeños. Don’t be afraid! Grab some mild ones. I don’t like things super spicy either, so adding the mild peppers is key. They bring such a wonderful flavor to the whole dish.
Bake it until hot and bubbly and cheesy… then it’s time to eat!
Can’t pass this up.
Butternut Squash Chicken Pasta Skillet
Spicy Butternut Chicken Baked Pasta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 shallot, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 cups cubed butternut squash
- kosher salt and pepper
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 pound penne pasta, cooked
- 1 cup reserved pasta water
- ¾ cups grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup cooked and shredded chicken, rotisserie works best
- 4 cups fresh baby spinach
- 1 ½ cups freshly grated cheddar or mozzarella cheese
- ½ cup pickled jalapeños
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
- Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch oven safe skillet (like cast iron or ceramic) over medium heat. Add the shallots and onion with a pinch of salt. Cook for 5 minutes, until slightly softened. Stir in the squash. Add another pinch of salt and pepper. Stir in the smoked paprika, cumin and red pepper flakes. Cook the squash, stirring often, until it gets caramelized and browned and slightly tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- At this point you can boil the pasta. Shave 2 to 3 minutes off the cook time - you want it slightly firm since we are baking it. If the pasta is done before you need it, spray or drizzle with olive oil so it doesn't stick together.
- Add the stock to the skillet and bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer for a few minutes until the squash is tender enough to mash. Mash half of the squash in the skillet with a wooden spoon or a fork. Taste the squash and season with more salt and pepper if necessary.
- Add the pasta to the squash skillet. Stir in the reserved pasta water and stir until everything is combined and incorporated. Stir in the parmesan chicken, the cooked chicken and the spinach, 1 handful at a time.
- Top the pasta with the grated cheese and the pickled jalapeños. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden and bubbly and cheese. Remove and sprinkle with extra parmesan. Serve immediately!
My kind of balanced meal.