Now that the weather is finally turning cooler here in the South, the idea of cooking with autumn vegetables sounds most appealing. Butternut squash is one of those vegetables that comes to mind, and this simple pasta dish showcases its rich, slightly sweet flavor. You can peel, dice, and cook a small butternut squash to use in this dish, but I took the easy way out and used frozen diced squash. If you don't mind a smoother texture you can even use a box of frozen puréed winter squash. Just don't substitute summer squash -- it would probably taste just fine, but would no longer be the autumnal dish you started out to make!
Pasta with Creamy Butternut Squash Sauce
12 oz. shell or orecchiette pasta, cooked and drained (do not salt the water; reserve 1 C. cooking water)
1/2 bag (5 oz. or 1 1/2 C.) frozen peas, cooked with pasta for last 2 minutes
8 oz. diced ham
2 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 bag (10 oz.) frozen diced butternut squash
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1 jar (15 oz.) light Alfredo sauce
Stir ham into cooked, drained pasta and peas. Sauté onion in olive oil over medium-high heat until transparent. Reduce heat and add squash. Stir to separate cubes, cover, and cook for about 4 minutes until squash is thawed. Uncover, add garlic, and cook one more minute. Stir in Alfredo sauce until sauce is a uniform color. Toss sauce with pasta mixture, adding pasta water as needed if sauce is too thick. Serves 6-8.