Dreamy Acorn Squash Pasta

Serving Size: 5
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins
Total Time: 35 mins

  • 1.5 cups cooked or canned white navy beans [268 g]
  • 3 cups chopped cooked acorn squash cubes, either steamed or roasted [425 g] (or a small acorn squash with raw weight of 583 g)
  • ½ tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion [125 g]
  • 1 cup chopped carrots [135 g]
  • 5 large garlic cloves (chopped)
  • ¾ cup vegetable broth (or water)
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 box whole wheat spaghetti noodles or fusilli pasta or gluten-free pasta (not included in the nutritional analysis)
Optional Toppings
  • roasted pumpkin seeds
  • chopped walnuts or pecan nuts
  • handful of cheese shreds (for a more 'cheesy' flavor)
Cooking Steps:
  1. If using canned white navy beans, rinse and drain the beans well with cold water, then set the measured amount aside. Alternatively use cooked white navy beans.

  2. Wash and slice a small acorn squash in half through the stem and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Then cook the acorn squash via roasting or steaming. To steam, place the acorn squash halves in a steamer pot that is already steaming and cook them for about 10 minutes or until just tender. To roast, preheat the oven to 350 F or 177 C. Then further cut the acorn squash halves into 1 - 1.5 inch wide semi-circle slices. Spread these acorn squash slices evenly onto a foil lined baking sheet or a wide glass bakeware pan. Bake for about 40-50 minutes or until tender (can be pierced through with a fork). (Optional: brush the orange cut sides with a bit of olive oil before baking.) While the acorn squash is cooking, proceed with the next few steps.

  3. Chop the onions, garlic and carrots.

  4. Prepare pasta (or gluten-free alternative) according to package instructions.

  5. Heat the ½ tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan or skillet on a medium stove heat setting. Once heated, add the onions, garlic and carrot slices and sauté for about 8 minutes or until soft.
  6. Next, add in the cooked or canned white navy beans, salt and pepper. Stir and let the saucepan contents cook for another 2-3 minutes, then turn off the heating stove element.
  7. Use a knife or fork to poke the acorn squash in the steamer to see if it is almost cooked through. If so, remove these halves from the steamer and let them cool for a few minutes. Then use a fruit peeler to easily remove the skins off the acorn squash halves (or slice the acorn squash into wedges and use a knife or fruit peeler to remove the skin off of each wedge). Chop the peeled cooked acorn squash into cubes to make 3 cups’ worth. If roasting, when the acorn squash slices are cooked through, remove them from the oven and let cool before cutting into cubes.
  8. Place the sautéed contents from the saucepan into a large food processor bowl or blender, along with the 3 cups of chopped acorn squash and vegetable broth (or water). Pulse a few times until a smooth creamy pasta sauce is formed. Taste the sauce and adjust seasonings as desired. Serve with your desired whole grain pasta or gluten-free alternative and enjoy!
Recipe note:

Roasting the acorn squash may be more flavorful but this step would also extend the cooking process so plan ahead. Alternatively, if you prefer, you can just use raw acorn squash cubes in this recipe. To do so, remove the peel of the sliced semi-circle shaped acorn squash wedges and then chop up the acorn squash flesh into 3 cups’ worth of cubes. Then add the acorn squash cubes in with the chopped carrots, garlic and onions to sauté for a longer period of time until all pieces are soft and cooked through.

The roasted pumpkin seeds or nuts all make a fantastic combination with this pasta sauce! If you want this pasta sauce to be less thick and creamy-like, you can add a bit more vegetable broth into the food processor to create a thinner consistency sauce. If you have extra cooked acorn squash remaining, these would make a nice accompaniment as a side dish.

Special note from the recipe creator, Anna Tseng, MPH, RD, LDN:

"This easy go-to recipe turns super nutritious acorn squash and white navy beans into a deliciously creamy and dreamy pasta sauce to top any whole grain pasta or gluten-free noodles you prefer. You can use canned white navy beans or pre-cooked white navy beans (from dry) in this recipe.

Compared to the other squashes like butternut squash and spaghetti squash, acorn squashes pack much more protein, fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, thiamin, vitamin B6 and folate than these other two squashes. One cup of roasted acorn squash cubes (205 grams in weight) already provides you with 115 calories, 2.3 grams of protein, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of fiber, 90 milligrams of calcium, 1.9 milligrams of iron, 88 milligrams of magnesium, 22 milligrams of vitamin C and a whopping 896 milligrams of potassium! Also, this sauce contains white navy beans too which boosts the macro and micronutrient content of this dish significantly, and contain many cancer-fighting phytochemicals beneficial to head and neck cancer patients and survivors.

A very dear family friend (I have known her for 26 years) just passed away this July 2020. She had metastatic breast cancer that had spread to her liver, bones and lungs, and then spread to her brain and her spinal column. I am also a dietitian with a heart for improving the nutrition of patients."

If you are interested in sharing your recipes with head and neck cancer patients and survivors, please email us at info@headandneck.org or fill the online form here

1-866-792-4622 (HNCA)

Becoming a patient with a serious illness after practicing medicine for over 40 years allowed me to understand the hardship and difficulties that patients face in ways I could not have done before.Itzhak Brook, M.D. Msc.
Physician and Professor of Pediatrics, Georgetown University School of Medicine and Throat Cancer Survivor

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