Squash Carbonara an Augmented Adaptation

Squash Carbonara

Sometimes I write my own recipes. Sometimes I adapt a recipe from another source. But there are still other recipes that are born in a place that’s somewhere in between. Take this Winter Squash Carbonara, it wasn’t my idea. I saw those three words in the current issue of Bon Appétit magazine and was sold by the title alone. Creamy winter squash, chewy pancetta, and al dente pasta– finished with a big grind of black pepper. I knew I’d be making some version of Winter Squash Carbonara sometime very soon.

When that time came this past week, I gave the recipe a look-see. Their version starts with a sauté of winter squash. Well, I prefer to roast winter squash most of the time. So when I started to make their version of Winter Squash Carbonara, I roasted butternut squash. I call this adapting a recipe because I adapted it to my preferences and cooking skills.

However, once I started adapting it I came across another problem. In its original form, this recipe seemed better suited as a primi pasta at a nice dinner party. I was looking for a complete weeknight meal served all on one plate. I added asparagus tips to save me from having to put something green on a separate plate. So I guess it’s fair to say I augmented this Winter Squash Carbonara recipe from an adapted Bon Appétit recipe.

Of course, there were substitutions as well, there always are…

They used pancetta. I used bacon. However, subbing bacon for pancetta does not make me a genius. It makes me lazy. I would have preferred pancetta, but I had bacon. Did I mention this was a weeknight meal?  There was no chance in H‑E-Double-Toothpicks I was going to the market after 5 pm. I live in Los Angeles. Do you think I’m crazy? Why do you think I learned to augment and adapt in the first place? GREG

Winter Squash Carbonara

Butternut Squash Carbonara 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4–6Source Inspired by Bon AppétitPublished
Butternut Squash Carbonara


  • 2 pound butternut squash (peeled, seeded, cut into ½” pieces, about 3 cups)
  • ½ large onion (cut into ¼‑inch dice, about 1‑cup)
  • 4 clove garlic (peeled & halved)
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage (divided)
  • 2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper (as needed for seasoning)
  • 4 ounce thick cut bacon (cut crosswise into ¼‑inch strips)
  • 1–2 bunch aparagus (1 ½‑inch tips only, save stalks for another use) to taste
  • 2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 12 ounce dried fettuccine
  • ¼ cup grated Pecorino (plus some extra shavings for serving)


Preheat oven to 400 degree F.

In a large bowl toss squash, onion, garlic, half the sage, the thyme and a pinch of nutmeg with olive oil. Pour the mixture onto a rimmed parchment-lined baking sheet. Season with salt & pepper, then roast in the oven until very soft and lightly caramelized, about 45 minutes. You may need to stir the vegetables and rotate the baking sheet halfway through to assure even roasting.

Meanwhile, place bacon into a large cast iron or non-stick skillet, turn the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 8 minutes. Add remaining sage and toss to coat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon and sage to a medium bowl; set aside. Discard the fat in the pan and wipe the skillet mostly clean with a paper towel, leaving a slick of fat in which to cook the asparagus tips.

Return the skillet to medium heat, add the asparagus tips in a single layer and cook without disturbing until they begin to brown, about 3 minutes. Carefully toss the asparagus tips to turn them and continue cooking until barely cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to the bowl with the bacon and sage.

Remove squash mixture from oven. Turn off oven. Discard garlic pieces and put the remaining squash mixture into the large skillet you just used for the bacon; season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat to high, add broth and bring it to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until squash is soft and liquid is reduced by half, 15–20 minutes. Let cool slightly, then purée in a blender until smooth; season with salt and pepper if necessary. Continue to reserve skillet.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Combine pasta, squash purée, and ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid in reserved skillet and cook over medium heat, tossing and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes. Mix in ¼ cup Pecorino.

Serve pasta topped with reserved bacon and asparagus mixture. Garnish with additional shaved Pecorino, remaining sage and a good grind of black pepper; serve warm.