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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

What to Make Your Vegetarian Relative for Dinner

By America’s Test Kitchen

Butternut squash and pasta have gotten along for years (ravioli, anyone?), so we thought we’d deconstruct the often butter-coated duo in a healthier way, without skimping on the decadence. We started with an aromatic base full of pepper flakes, garlic, and lots of leeks (even the often-thrown-away-yet-nutrient-rich green parts), then pressure-cooked our pasta with lots of little gem-size pieces of butternut squash. To balance the rich aspect of this sauce, we contrasted with a healthy amount of lemon zest and fresh tarragon. The savory, subtle anise flavor of tarragon was a surprise alternative to the more common match of butternut squash and sage. Arranging creamy burrata on top turned this dish into a more sophisticated and luxurious meal. If using traditional pasta, decrease the water to 1 cup. Do not substitute other pasta shapes in this recipe. If burrata is unavailable, substitute fresh mozzarella.  

Shells with Butternut Squash, Leeks, and Burrata

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound leeks, halved length-wise, sliced 1-inch thick, and washed thoroughly

4 garlic cloves, minced

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 cups vegetable or chicken broth

2 cups water

1 pound 100 percent whole-wheat medium pasta shells

1 ½ pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ½-inch pieces (5 cups)

¾ teaspoon table salt

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, divided, plus 1 tablespoon juice

2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon, divided

8 ounces burrata cheese, room temperature

¼ cup toasted chopped walnuts

1. Using highest sauté function, heat oil in Instant Pot until shimmering. Add leeks and cook until softened and lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and pepper flakes and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth and water, scraping up any browned bits, then stir in pasta, squash, and salt.

2. Lock lid into place and close pressure-release valve. Select high pressure-cook function and cook for 6 minutes. Turn off Instant Pot and quick-release pressure. Carefully remove lid, allowing steam to escape away from you.

3. Stir shells and sauce to combine. Partially cover pot and let sit until shells are tender and sauce is thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon lemon zest and juice and 1 tablespoon tarragon. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer pasta to serving platter.

4. Cut burrata into rough 1 ½-inch pieces, collecting creamy liquid. Arrange burrata on top of pasta and drizzle with creamy liquid. Sprinkle with walnuts, remaining 1 teaspoon lemon zest, and remaining 1 tablespoon tarragon. Serve. 

Reprinted, with permission, from Healthy & Delicious: Inspired Meals with a World of Flavor (America’s Test Kitchen, 2021),