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Angel Hair Pasta with Squash and Kale

We’re tossing roasted butternut squash, kale, parmesan cheese, lemon, garlic and butter with angel hair pasta. Then sprinkling it with a crunchy pecan-panko-zesty crumb topping.

Wonderful flavor combination. Great textures. Big bold colors. Delicious recipe. Serve the pasta as one of your meatless meals or as a side dish. 

pasta with squash, kale, butter sauce and crumb topping 3

My sister Kathy introduced me to this dish when she brought it to a family pot luck. We all scarfed it down and gave it two thumbs up. My other sister Mindy thought it had similar tones to our lemon pasta with shrimp in 30 minutes (her fave).

The recipe comes from Bon Appetit. When I reviewed it later that night, I was a bit disheartened as it looked too fussy.

If you’re not a stranger to our blog, you’ll know that I am a huge believer in getting from point A to B as quickly and easily as possible to get great results.

So I simplified a couple of steps, cutting the cooking time down and figuring out the shortcuts I could use without compromising taste. I also cut down the butter from the original recipe. 

The end result? Good! because…

  • The sweet caramelized roasted butternut squash pairs beautifully with the lemony, buttery, cheesy sauce.
  • The pecan-panko crumbs add a lot to the dish – don’t skip them.
  • The contrasting orange and green colors are stunning. 
  • And I can add it to my rotation of healthy meals packed with fiber, vitamin A and C, potassium, calcium and iron.

It’s a pretty easy recipe with just 4 steps even though the ingredients list is still a bit long:

  1. Roast the squash in the oven (can be done ahead)
  2. Boil the angel hair pasta (or any spaghetti) along with the kale.
  3. Toast the pecans, panko and lemon zest on the stovetop in a pan (can be done ahead)
  4. Combine the butter, lemon juice, pasta water and seasonings then toss in the pasta, kale and squash. Add topping and serve.

FAQ – good to know

What is angel hair pasta? 

Angel hair pasta is fine, thin, long strands of delicate pasta. It’s also called capellini. Good substitutes are vermicelli and spaghettini. 

What does ‘al dente’ mean when cooking pasta?

Al dente – literally ‘to the tooth’ – means the pasta is cooked to a point that is still firm to the bite. Most recipes will say to cook the pasta al dente, but in truth, this is personal preference. The only way to know if your pasta is cooked al dente or any other way you like it is to taste a strand periodically while it’s cooking.

Is kale healthy? 

Yes, very. It’s high in nutrients (particularly vitamin A, K and C) and very low in calories according to Healthline. A super food. 

Is butternut squash healthy? 

Yes. Healthline says butternut squash is low in calories and high in many nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium.

pasta with squash, kale, butter sauce and crumb topping 1

Tailor To Your Taste

Here are a few substitutes and variations to try. 

  • Pasta substitutes: Any long thin pasta will do – angel hair pasta (regular or whole wheat), capellini, spaghettini, spaghetti, linguini. In fact shorter pasta like bow ties or penne are fine too. 
  • Kale substitutes: If you don’t have or like kale, try chard, baby or regular spinach or collard greens (spring greens in the UK). 
  • Butternut squash substitutes: acorn squash, buttercup squash, hubbard squash or delicata squash.
  • Nut substitutes: Instead of chopped pecans, try hazelnuts, walnuts. pine nuts or almonds. 
  • Seasoning: Feel free to add red pepper flakes or chili flakes for some heat or fresh herbs like fresh basil, thyme or oregano.
  • Toasting crumbs: Instead of toasting them on the stovetop (as per the recipe), you can toast them in the oven. Instructions are in the recipe notes. 

How to make this angel hair pasta recipe with squash and kale

pasta, squash, kale, parmesan, butter, garlic, seasonings, lemon, pecans, panko
Ingredients: pasta, squash, kale, parmesan, butter, garlic, seasonings, lemon (zest and juice), pecans, panko
toasted panko, pecans, zest in pan
Toast crushed pecans and panko in a pan over medium heat on the stove. Add lemon zest and oil.
pasta with squash, kale, butter sauce and crumb topping p2
Sprinkle with parsley or other fresh herbs and black pepper. Top with pecan-panko crumbs and serve.

Shortcuts

  • Buy pre-cut butternut squash. This is the best shortcut as peeling and cutting squash is hard. If you are using a whole squash, I suggest piercing it a few times and softening it in the microwave for 4 minutes before peeling and dicing. 
  • Line your pan with parchment when roasting the butternut squash. One less pan to wash.
  • Buy pre-washed and de-stemmed cut up kale.
  • Use frozen crushed garlic cubes or garlic from a jar instead of chopping fresh garlic cloves. 

What to serve with squash and kale angel hair pasta

Serve it as a simple side dish with maple glazed salmon or juicy grilled pork chops.

Or as a vegetarian main dish with a side salad. Last week I served a ramekin of instant pot French onion soup before the pasta. Fab.

Make Ahead

The best way to eat this pasta recipe is fresh. But there are two things you can make several hours ahead or a day ahead.

  • the toasted panko-pecan-zest topping
  • the roasted butternut squash (rewarm it in the microwave before tossing with the pasta)

Other vegetarian pasta dishes you might like

pasta with squash, kale, butter sauce and crumb topping 3
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Angel Hair Pasta with Squash and Kale

We're tossing roasted butternut squash, kale, parmesan cheese, lemon, garlic and butter with angel hair pasta. Then sprinkling it with a crunchy pecan-panko-zesty crumb topping. Wonderful flavor combination. Great textures. And big bold colors.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 3
Author: Cheryl, Two Kooks In The Kitchen

Ingredients

Squash

  • 1 pound (450 grams) cubed butternut squash, 3/4-1 inch (2-2.5 cm) cubes, Note 1 (1 small butternut squash)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or oregano)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and black pepper

Pasta and Kale

  • 6 ounces angel hair pasta (capellini) (or spaghettini or other long pasta)
  • 4 cups loosely packed kale leaves, stems removed and roughly chopped, Note 2 (about 80 grams, 2.75 ounces, 1/2 bunch)

Pecan-panko crumb topping

  • 1/4 cup (27 grams) finely chopped pecans, Note 3
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil (or butter)

Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 3 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 ounce) finely grated Parmesan cheese (use 1/2 cup if coarsely grated)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup (177 ml) pasta water you may not need it all
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Instructions

  • HEAT OVEN to 425F/218C. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment (or foil sprayed with oil).
  • ROAST SQUASH: Spread butternut squash on baking sheet in single layer. Drizzle on oil, salt, pepper and thyme. Toss to coat evenly (I use my hands). Place in center of the oven and roast for 20-25 minutes, shaking/turning once part way through, until edges are browned.
  • BOIL PASTA AND KALE: While squash is roasting, bring large skillet or pot of water with 2-3 teaspoons salt to boil. Add pasta and kale. Bring to boil and reduce to medium-high heat. Cook for 1 minute less than package instructions to al dente, usually 6-8 minutes total depending on thickness of pasta. Reserve 3/4 cup of pasta water (177 mls). Then drain in colander and set aside.
  • MAKE CRUMB TOPPING: While pasta is boiling, heat a small pan to medium heat. Add pecans and panko. Cook for 3-5 minutes until golden brown, stirring. Stir in lemon zest and oil. Taste and add salt if needed. Set aside.
  • MAKE SAUCE AND FINISH: In same pot or skillet as you boiled pasta, heat to medium heat and melt butter. Stir in garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup/118ml pasta water, lemon juice and Parmesan cheese. Stir for 30 seconds until smooth. Add rest of the ingredients – cooked pasta, kale, parsley and butternut squash. Toss with tongs to combine well and cook for another 1-2 minutes until sauce is thickened and pasta is heated through. Add more pasta water if needed to get the consistency you like. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more lemon, Parmesan, salt as needed. Transfer to a large bowl and sprinkle with pecan-panko crumbs. Serve immediately.

Notes

  1. Butternut squash:
    • Substitute options: acorn squash, buttercup squash, hubbard squash or delicata squash.
    • Here is a video on how to peel and cut squash. For a shortcut, buy pre-peeled and cubed butternut squash. (I do).
  2. Kale substitutes: chard, baby or regular spinach, collard greens (spring greens in the UK). For a shortcut, buy pre-washed and de-stemmed kale. 
  3. Pecan substitutes: hazelnuts, walnuts. pine nuts or almonds. 
  4. To toast pecan-panko crumbs in oven (instead of on stove): Spread out panko and pecans on a lined pan. Place in 350F/177C oven on upper rack  and bake for 5-7 minutes, tossing half way through, until golden brown. Remove from oven and stir in oil and lemon zest. Set aside. 
  5. Other variations: 
    • Add red pepper flakes or chili flakes for heat
    • Add fresh herbs – thyme, basil, oregano
  6. Make ahead:
    • The best way to eat this pasta recipe is fresh. But there are two things you can make several hours ahead or a day ahead.
      • toasted panko-pecan-zest topping
      • roasted butternut squash (rewarm it in the microwave before tossing with the pasta)
 
Nutrition values are estimates.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Angel Hair Pasta with Squash and Kale
Amount Per Serving
Calories 597 Calories from Fat 252
% Daily Value*
Fat 28g43%
Saturated Fat 10g63%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 4g
Monounsaturated Fat 11g
Cholesterol 37mg12%
Sodium 700mg30%
Potassium 1199mg34%
Carbohydrates 75g25%
Fiber 6g25%
Sugar 6g7%
Protein 18g36%
Vitamin A 25662IU513%
Vitamin C 148mg179%
Calcium 349mg35%
Iron 4mg22%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe?We’d love you to rate it above under ‘rate this recipe’ or in the comment section below. Thanks!

2 Comments

    1. You’re right Karyn. A little fussier than most of our other recipes (even with cutting down a couple of steps from the original recipe), but glad you thought it was worth it! Thanks so much for leaving a comment.

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