Cooking With Confidence
butternut squash ziti
Economical, Main Dishes, Pasta, Vegetarian

Butternut Squash Ziti

by Nick

Even though it’s still abnormally hot here in DC, it’s definitely fall. I know it’s definitely fall because there’s a huge pile of squashes and gourds stacked at Whole Foods in a decorative fashion that most people walk by. Of course, with a tiny amount of work, the average squash is about as versatile as butter, but most people are scared of it’s rough exterior.

What people don’t know though is that squashes are like cowboys. They’re rough on the outside, but they have tender hearts.

So while people were passing by the nicely stacked pile of butternut squash, I grabbed one and thought I’d figure out what to do with it later.

Later came about two aisles down when I spotted some ziti. I figured putting those two things together might just work out.

9x13 dish
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...

Butternut Squash Ziti


  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 pound ziti
  • 1 Cup Half & Half (or cream)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 Teaspoon nutmeg (fresh grated is best)
  • 8 ounces Gruyere cheese (or Robusto)
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • Salt and pepper

Helpful Equipment

  • Processor (or you could just mash with a fork honestly)


1) Slice the butternut squash in half lengthwise and lay skin-side up on a large baking sheet.  Poke a bunch of wholes in the skins with a fork and bake at 350 degrees until the squash is very tender, 45-60 minutes.

2) Let squash cool for a few minutes and then scoop squash into a large bowl (or food processor bowl)

3) Add half and half, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, and 1/2 of the grated cheese and process until smooth.  If you don't have a processor you can just mash well to combine everything.

4) Cook ziti according to packaging, drain, and combine ziti and butternut squash mixture.

5) Butter a 9x13 baking dish very well.

6) Add ziti mixture to baking dish and sprinkle on rest of cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees until cheese is melted and ziti is slightly brown around edges, about 25-30 minutes.

7) Cool for a few minutes and serve it up!

Roasting the squash

This recipe is actually pretty hands off. To start you need to bake the butternut squash. If you’ve never done this before, the easiest way to slice a large gourd or squash is to sit it on a sturdy surface and stab it right in the middle with a large knife so the knife is standing straight up in the air, perpendicular to the squash.

Then slowly push the knife down and it should easily slice half the squash open. Repeat on the other side and you’ll be all set with two even halves of squash.

Lay these on a baking sheet and poke some holes in the skins with a fork. Take some aggression out!

roasted squash

Take some aggression out.

Bake these at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes until the squash are super-tender. The cooking time will vary depending on the size of the squash.

When they come out, they’ll be really tender and very hot!


This smells like Fall to me.

These will need to cool for probably 10 minutes until you can handle them.

Making the Sauce

When the squash are cool enough to handle, scoop all the meat out with a spoon and add it to your food processor bowl, or just a big bowl for mashing.

Then you’ll need the things below. The fresh nutmeg is especially awesome in this.

squash ingredients

Simple flavors for this.

Combine the half and half (or cream), cayenne pepper, nutmeg, and about half of the cheese with the butternut squash. Puree it until smooth and season with a good pinch of salt and pepper.

If it’s not really creamy, add a bit more Half & Half or cream. Also, give it a taste at this point. It should be really smooth and flavorful with just a tiny amount of spice.


You could mash this anyway you choose.

While you’re doing all this you should be cooking the ziti. If you’ve never made ziti before, it’s basically like a thick penne pasta which makes it great for baked pasta dishes because the noodles don’t fall apart at all.

These are my cooked noodles.

cooked ziti

Thicker than most pastas.

Mix the butternut squash mixture and the ziti noodles together really well. You’re going for something like this.

mixed together

Looks good to me!

Resist eating this as-is because it’s really very tasty at this point.

Maybe the most important part

Butter the pan (a 9×13 pan to be exact)! If you don’t butter this bad boy really nicely, the ziti will stick badly to the pan.

This is important.

buttered dish

Maybe the most important part.

Add all the ziti and smooth it out, then sprinkle on the rest of the cheese.

cheese added

Ready to bake!

Bake this delicious thing for about 25-30 minutes or until the cheese is really melted and the ziti is slightly browned around the edges. It’ll be really hot at this point. Too hot to eat for sure. Let it cool for a few minutes before eating/serving.

ziti baked

Out of the oven!

When you do serve it up though, you’ll love it. I promise.

up close

This was seriously good.

If you’ve had ziti before you’re probably used to a tomato-based thing with lots of mozzarella cheese and trust me I like that just as much as the next guy. But this is equally delicious… if not more so just because it’s so different.

So the next time you pass by that decorative display, mess it up and take one of those beautiful cowboys home.

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21 comments on “Butternut Squash Ziti

  1. Do you have any suggestions on a more common cheese that I can use? I live in a rural area and cannot find the Gruyere cheese (I had really wanted to try your peach grilled cheese too…).

  2. I love winter squash, and think most people don't give 'em a chance :) I've never thought to use it as a sauce for pasta like this, but I love the idea :) Thanks :)

  3. Mmm. Squash. My local farmers market FINALLY had Buttercup squash and as I type there is a bowl in front of me. Or as my mother calls it, a bowl of "orange mashed potatoes." Good looking recipe, great thinking!

  4. I love the recipe, I´m preparing it right now, but ich skip the roasting step and but the squash in the microwave, just 8 min on high, and they steam themselve super tender! :) Love your blog.

  5. Just finished it, it tasted awesome, the hardest part is not to eat it before it goes in the oven ! Sorry for the typo in my first comment, I wanted to say "put"…

  6. I had acorn squash and a small pumpkin from my CSA, so we roasted them to use in this recipe. Also, to add some protein, pureed a block of tofu with the roasted squashes. Sticking with the existing grocery system, I used Swiss cheese. It was delicious, thanks for the inspiration!

  7. I am one of those people that is guilty of walking by the squash display at Whole Foods! :-) Thanks to you (and this recipe), I am going to actually buy one the next time I'm there! Thanks for sharing!

  8. What a perfect autumn pasta dish! I'm going to try to veganize it, but if that doesn't work, I may just succumb to the siren song of Gruyere and make it the 'right' way. :)

  9. Hi Nick , I'm a big fan of your blog ( all the way from sunny London) I'm still a little nervous around the kitchen. I made the sauce last night in preparation for a dinner party tonight, I found it to be delicious but really sweet. I was thinking of adding some roasted onions and sage leaves before I bake it with the pasta, do you think it's a good idea? Any other suggestions? Thanks a ton. Xx
    P.S- you officially have a mini- following here in London !

    1. Goodness…. sorry it took me a day to respond… I'm usually much better but I was travelling…. Anyway, I think you are 100% on the right path. If it tastes a bit sweet you could add either of those things I think to it. It is a bit sweeter though than a normal baked pasta… the cheese on top during baking does help with that though.

      Anyway, let me know how it went even though I probably missed the boat on helping.

      And awesome to hear about followers across the pond! :)

  10. Thanks for a scrumptious recipe. Roasting is really the only way to go with squashes, really. I refuse to try to peel squash. It's nice that for that recipe I don't need to.

  11. Nick, This is amazing…. We got a butternut squash in the farmshare and I made it for my roommates; it was a huge hit. Give my best to Betsy, and hope all is well.

  12. I’ve had this bookmarked forever and I still haven’t tried it. I know…lame. I did want to let you know that I’ve included it in my new “5 Recipes I would love to make” feature on my blog. Please let me know if you’d like me to take it off the list. Thanks! :)

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