Picnic Recipe: Penne with Butternut Squash & Goat Cheese

I made this for our recent food adventure picnic at the de Young.  I used pre-cut butternut squash from Trader Joe’s and roasted it on a baking tray lined with foil (easy clean-up) the night before the picnic.  To make it kid friendly, I fine diced the onions and omitted the basil from the kids version (lest “green-phobia” lead to rejection of dish).  You can omit the nuts if you have allergies.  If the little ones are picky, the butternut squash can be pureed after roasting and mixed in versus having it in bite sized chunks.  Penne with Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese by Giada De Laurentiis is satisfying, yummy and the perfect picnic food.

Penne with Butternut Squash & Goat Cheese


  • Vegetable oil or cooking spray
  • 1 (2-pound) butternut or kombucha squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch cubes (I used less)
  • 1 onion, chopped in small dice
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)
  • 1 packed cup chopped fresh basil leaves (optional)
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan


1) Place an oven rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

2)  Spray a lined baking sheet, liberally, with vegetable oil cooking spray. Set aside.

3)  Arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bake for to 20 to 25 minutes until the vegetables are golden and cooked through. Turn squash pieces over and scatter onions around squash and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

4) Boil pasta per package directions. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water. Put the pasta, goat cheese and 1 cup of pasta water in a large serving bowl. Toss until the cheese has melted and forms a creamy sauce (easy mac & cheese?). Add the squash and onion mixture, the walnuts and the basil. Toss well and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with Parmesan and serve.

16 thoughts on “Picnic Recipe: Penne with Butternut Squash & Goat Cheese

  1. I’ll be trying this one this weekend! Looks tasty and since my 2 year old is a pasta lover, I’m sure she’ll dig it too!

  2. This looks SOOOO awesome. We don’t eat enough squash. I don’t know why. It’s fabulous in so many dishes!! I have to make this recipe soon!! Yum! And hopefully, if I eat it everyday, I will look just like Giada, right?
    Keep up the good work ladies! I love what you’ve done.
    xo colleen

  3. Delicious! Just gobbled up first bowl. Super easy to make. Thought for sure kids would love it, but one didn’t like the onions and the other…well, wanted his plain. I will definitely make this again.

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    • Sorry this one wasn’t a winner for you, Narah. I’m thinking you might try mascarpone or ricotta in place of of the goat cheese (or a mixture). What we really liked about the recipe was that the soft cheese creates an instant creamy sauce. A milder soft cheese (ricotta or mascarpone) would achieve the same effect without the strong flavor.

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