A Quick, Wholesome Supper: Butternut, Bacon and Penne


The recipe called for pumpkin, pancetta, parmesan, and penne—charmingly alliterative—but what I had was some butternut squash to use up and apple wood smoked bacon. Of course, it worked just fine, and was so stupendously better the next day that I thought maybe I ought always to make it ahead.

The butternut squash was a big one, and I usually cook for two so once I have cut into a squash, I have to be pretty diligent about using it up. I like main dishes that absorb a fair amount of vegetable material with a little added flavor from salty, smokey or spicy meat, like bacon or sausage. Then, too, the pasta fills it out a bit, makes it feel a little more substantial. With a salad on the side, or some pickles, and/or quickly sautéed green beans or broccoli, it makes a whole supper. Plus it only takes about a half hour to assemble.

I own that a few years ago it would never have occurred to me to combine pasta and any squash or pumpkin; I would have thought it too starchy. Exposure to butternut squash-filled ravioli, however, changed my mind on that score, and a dish like this re-creates the flavor of that ravioli without the effort of making it from scratch.

For sure, I could have used pumpkin because there’s still one or two in storage from last summer’s garden. You may prefer pumpkin. Just cut the squash or pumpkin fairly small, half to three-quarter inch dice so it cooks quickly. This time, I cut the bacon up into dice, but you could cook strips of bacon and break them up which will work just as well. I used mini-penne, three small handfuls. It is always good to add some onion or garlic, and at the very end I added a swoosh of cream plus two or three spoonfuls of pasta cooking water. I put the Parmesan on the table so we could add it to taste.

Really, this is less of a recipe than an idea. Portion it to taste, more or less squash, meat, and pasta according to your preference. I had probably two cups of cut up squash, used three strips of bacon, and about half a cup of dried pasta. We had supper plus lunch from this quantity, but we are older people who don’t eat as much as a teenager does. Ramp it up according to your family’s need.

Butternut Squash, Bacon and Penne
Serves: 2-3
  • 1 cup penne (or your choice of pasta)
  • 3-4 slices bacon
  • 2 cups diced butternut squash
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced, optional
  • 2-3 tablespoons cream or thick yogurt
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped scallions to garnish, optional
  • Parmesan to taste
  1. Bring a two-quart pan full of water to boil for the pasta.
  2. On a frying pan, cook the bacon until crisp, set aside.
  3. Saute the squash in either some of the bacon fat or in olive oil.
  4. While the squash softens, put the penne in the boiling water to cook .
  5. Add onion and garlic to squash and cook until onion is tender.
  6. Drain the pasta and add it to the squash, along with crumbled bacon. Toss.
  7. Stir in the cream or yogurt to coat the mixture.
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Serve with scallions for garnish and Parmesan on the side.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.