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carapelli-1My first olive oil tasting experience was in Napa.  It was, I now realize, an attempt by my best friend to stuff me with so much fat that I’d make it through at least two wine tastings without turning into a slurring falling all over myself mess.

(Fine.  One and a half.  I’m a lightweight and we all know it.)

I mean…I suppose it was a little suspicious when she kept pouring those little bowls of olive oil down my throat and ordering me to chug.  But I just thought she was trying to appeal to my foodie interests!  That’s what best friends are for, right?


It wasn’t until a few weeks ago when Carapelli sent me some of their Premium 100% Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil that I realized…we were doing it all wrong.

There is an art to olive oil tasting.  And, shockingly, “chugging” is not involved.

Rather, there are the “Four S’s” – swirling, sniffing, slurping, and swallowing.  And they each have their own highly scientific purpose.  Which, being the scientific-minded kind of gal that I am…I kind of love. 

Swirling releases the oil’s esters, which are the molecules in the olive oil that bind to your smell receptors in your nose and create that luscious olive oil-y scent.  Sniffing tells you just how fruity the oil is, either more on the intense vs. subtle side of the spectrum.  Slurping, or sipping the oil while “sipping” in a bit of air as well, helps to emulsify the oil and spread it throughout your mouth.  This is where you take note of the various tastes and sensations – fruity, peppery, smooth, etc.  And last, but not least, swallowing. After you swallow, take note of any aftertaste, either a lingering peppery flavor or any stinging sensation.


So, armed with a bottle of Carapelli’s Premium 100% Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I decided to take it upon myself to olive oil taste.  But right this time.

I swirled.  I sniffed.  I slurped.  And I swallowed.

It was lovely.  The olive oil itself had a very strong olive-y scent, which I am always inclined to believe leads to a very strong olive-y taste.  It was very smooth in my mouth and left a bit of a peppery aftertaste, which I likened to a hint of raw garlic.  I find garlic to be the ultimate comfort food, so that was totally fine by me!

Carapelli also has two other flavors – Il Numerato, which is more of a low acidity oil, and an Organic olive oil which complies with USDA organic standards that I can’t wait to try!  Thankfully, we all can try them thanks to this $1.00 OFF coupon at!


When you have a really strong, rich-tasting oil like this, you really ought to use it in a way that lets it shine.

One of my favorites?  Pesto.

What I love about pesto is that it is made up of a few simple ingredients – an herb (usually basil), a nut, olive oil, garlic, and parmesan cheese – yet still tastes amazing.  However, because there are so few ingredients, it is that much more important that they are the best quality you can find. Otherwise…it will just taste blah.  And nothing is sadder than “blah” pesto, that’s for sure.


Since basil isn’t exactly in season anymore, I thought it would be best to make my pesto from an herb that is more autumn-appropriate.

Sage, which goes fabulously with most of the vegetables in season at the moment, especially my two favorites – winter squash and brussels sprouts, was my herb of choice.  Paired with some walnuts and the Carapelli olive oil, this pesto just…worked.  The woodsy flavor of the sage meshed beautiful with the super sweet roasted winter squash and the caramelized brussels sprouts, with the fruity olive oil tying it all together.  Throw some blue cheese on top, and you have yourself a beautiful meal, replete with all the flavors of fall.

In fact, I ate so much of it that I might have been able to undertake three wine tastings without even the slightest hint of a slur.  And that’s saying something.


Pasta with Sage-Walnut Pesto, Winter Squash and Brussels Sprouts
Serves 4, an Eats Well With Others Original


  • 1 medium kabocha squash or other winter squash, seeded and diced into bite sized chunks
  • 1 lb brussels sprouts, halved
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sage
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/2 lb pasta
  • 4 oz gorgonzola, crumbles


  1. Heat oven to 450.  Arrange winter squash chunks and brussels sprouts on two baking sheets lined with parchment paper (only one vegetable on each, since they have different cooking times).  Spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt.  Roast brussels sprouts for 20-25 minutes and winter squash for 40 minutes or until tender.  Remove from oven and set aside.
  2. Set up a pot of salted water to boil.
  3. While the water is heating, make the sage-walnut pesto.  Combine the olive oil, sage, garlic, walnuts, and parmesan cheese in a food processor.  Pulse until pureed, adding some water if necessary to loosen it up a bit.
  4. Cook the pasta until al dente and then strain, reserving about 1/2 cup pasta water.  In a large bowl, mix the pasta, brussels sprouts, and winter squash.  Add the pesto and mix, adding reserved pasta sauce as necessary until thoroughly combined.  Taste for seasoning.
  5. Place pasta in four serving bowls and top each with crumbled gorgonzola.


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79 Responses to Pasta with Sage-Walnut Pesto, Winter Squash and Brussels Sprouts

  1. Amy says:

    I love all the winter vegetables in this pasta. I haven’t done oilve oil tasting before, but there is a little store nearby where I can. Maybe I should give it a try!

  2. I didn’t realise there was an art to olive oil tasting. And never heard of oil chugging either. So many new things I learnt today already, and the day has just started

  3. Dawn says:

    I can’t believe I missed the olive oil tasting when I was out there! We were staying in Petaluma so it would have been a bit of a drive I guess. And, ok, I’m not a huge fan of brussels but if I get them with my farm share I’m making this recipe.

  4. Katerina says:

    There are numerous ways to make pasta. Everytime I discover a new one better than the previous. This dish looks absolutely delicious Joanne and olive oil is the best oil you could possibly use!

  5. I didn’t know how to taste olive oil before. Good to know! I love this dish!

  6. Simply Life says:

    as someone who could eat bread dipped in olive oil for an entire meal this is great to know!

  7. Thanks for the olive oil tasting tutorial. And your recipe looks soooo good, even after eating squash-sage-walnut dishes for weeks now I still want more!!!

  8. I also did olive oil tasting in Napa… but I didn’t do it right either, apparently. I went with the dip bread in olive oil and eat it style:-) Another delicious recipe that I could eat multiple times a week!

  9. Pam says:

    Other than the blue cheese, this is the perfect fall dish!

  10. Barbara says:

    I’m loving all your squash recipes, Joanne. Sage is a lovely herb and I’m using it more and more. Fun to read about your olive oil tasting too.

  11. Lea Ann says:

    I love Fall pasta dishes. So many wonderful flavors and colors coming together thanks to a canvas of pasta.

  12. sofia says:

    olive oil tasting? sage pesto? as usual, rockin’ my world over here. this looks delicious!

  13. Ummm, sage pesto sounds awesome! Not to mention the squash, brussels sprouts, and gorgonzola – ALL things that I love.

  14. I’ve always liked Carapelli even without the 4 S’s! But I do love your other three S’s the squash, sprouts and the sage, your dish looks fantastic.

  15. Look at those roasted sprouts- do you realize how great they look. I think you could even get my husband to eat them- now that would be an accomplishment. Love Love this dish- everything about it but in-particular the pesto. I am a pesto lover!

  16. I don’t think I have ever eaten brussel sprouts.. but they are your favourite?? Wow, I better give them a try!

  17. I have LOADS of sage sitting on my deck surrounded by blackened frost-covered basil. I’d never have thought to turn it into pesto. Thanks for the inspiration (and for the olive oil tasting lesson).

  18. Faith says:

    Carapelli defintely makes fantastic olive oil! My favorite way to eat sprouts is roasted and this looks killer paired with squash!

  19. Yes, yes I know all about olive oil tasting. Just pass me a bowl of your pasta please!! I’ve been looking for a delicious way to use up all those tender herb leaves before frost slays them.


  20. this looks seriously scrumptious! and i have all the ingredients!

  21. Amy says:

    You know I love pesto. So simple, so versatile. I make it with pine nuts, sometimes walnuts, and sometimes peas. And I absolutely believe buying the best quality olive oil (and balsamic vinegar, btw) DOES make a difference. Carapelli is a great brand.

    More importantly, who knew you could do an olive oil tasting? All these years I’ve lived so close to Napa and thought it was all about the wine. I need to start paying attention.

  22. Jenna says:

    The blue cheese crumbles–that’s what’s making me insanely hungry right now. And unfortunately, I ate the last of our blue cheese two nights ago–sniff.

  23. Nicole, RD says:

    Sage pesto?! That sounds absolutely amazing. My garden has all sorts of sage to use, too 🙂

  24. Roasting does wonders to the brussel sprouts! Your pasta looks very hearty and delicious!

  25. Great combination of many of my favorite ingredients. Take me with you to your next olive oil tasting…that’s right up my alley 🙂

  26. Ranjani says:

    Lovely! So perfect for fall. I have been wanting to try making sage pesto for a while, glad to have your version as a guide.

  27. Well, aside from the walnuts, this is what I want to eat every single day! Love love love!

  28. I’m very excited for brussels sprouts to arrive. I haven’t seen them at the farmers’ market yet, but I know they’ll be there soon. Sage and walnut pesto and gorgonzola sound great with them!

  29. This is absolutely fantastic! I love all of those bold flavors…and so perfectly Autumn. And now I want to go on a wine tasting tour again…it’s been too long! I’ve never done an olive oil tasting, would love to, though!

  30. Kristen says:

    If I were a true gourmande, I would be able to say I loved that dish despite the Brussels sprouts, but alas, I am weak. I love EVERYTHING about that wonderful dish, except the offending sprouts.

  31. Esi says:

    So much Autumn happening in this dish. Love it.

  32. This looks so good! Not a fan of brussel sporuts, but willing to give it a try since there’s squash in it! Yum!!!

    At the Farmers Market in Napa, they had olive oil and vinegar tasting and OMG, I never thought they would taste so good. They actually mix the balsamic flavors with the olive oil flavors and it’s like your tasting a meal! I had one combo with lemon olive oil and I forgot what kind of balsamic and it tasted like lemon meringue pie! It’s amazing the flavors they had. I would of bought them, but there were over $20, a bottle and of course I couldn’t get one without the other!

  33. Julie says:

    you’re making me VERY excited for thanksgiving and christmas! what is it about brussel sprouts and pumpkin that just scream the holidays ARE HERE!!!!!!!!!! hahaha <3 you mama!

  34. What a gorgeous pasta and thank you for the “how to” on tasting olive oil. I knew it was an art but I had no idea where to try.

  35. Carolyn Jung says:

    Everything is better with gorgonzola crumbles. 🙂

  36. Penny says:

    Beautiful pasta recipe and it is true; the olive oil used makes all of the difference. Love your photography.

  37. This looks wonderful. I love all the depth of flavor and ingredients, the combination looks really really good. I’m always making similar pasta dishes over and over again, so glad I have a new one for my arsenal 🙂

  38. Candace says:

    I made a bag full of Sage Pesto “cubes” this summer and now I know why. It was for this recipe right here. I absolutely love this whole combination of flavors and cannot wait to give this a try. I am pinning this one, Joanne. It looks amazing, as always.

  39. I’m buying winter squash tonight after dance.

  40. Catherine says:

    Dear Joanne, I love!love! gorgonzola cheese! I also love all of the other veggies in this. Great idea to make your pesto from sage. Blessings my dear, your friend, Catherine xo

  41. Pam says:

    I love good olive oil! I’ll try the S’s next time I get a bottle of the good stuff. The pasta looks beautiful and oh so delicious – like usual.

  42. Jenn says:

    What a lovely recipe. I bet the combination of flavors is wonderful.

  43. Hannah says:

    It’s the brussel sprouts’ top goal in life to be roasted, don’t you know? That’s absolutely the best way to eat them, and that sounds like an awesome addition to a pasta dish. And here I had just been eating them alone for all of these years!

  44. I was SO excited when I saw the title of your post today, Joanne. 🙂 I just got several seedlings of sage and they’re so beautiful already, just waiting to be turned into lovely things like this pesto. 🙂

  45. Nutmeg Nanny says:

    This looks amazing! I have found a new love for brussel sprouts this season. I cannot get enough of them! Also, I’m a huge fan of sage but have never made a pesto out of it…I need to get on that!

  46. elly says:

    I’m totally making this, but with goat cheese, since I’m not huge on gorgonzola. It looks glorious, and I am already in love with it.

  47. Miriam says:

    That looks to die for! I just had Brussel Sprouts for lunch today, can’t get enough of them. :), Miriam@Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

  48. Megan says:

    Can I come over for dinner… this is my ideal fall dinner right here.

  49. Katelyn says:

    This looks really good. I’ve never tried a pesto with sage before, but I bet it’s awesome.

  50. Reeni says:

    Thanks for schooling me in olive oil tasting! I am completely in love with this dish – the flavors are incredible together!

  51. Swathi says:

    Love the sage flavored walnut pesto. Butternut squash adds sweetness to pasts. you are right testing olive oil is art.

  52. Wow, I never knew it was such an art. Your recipe looks delicious

  53. Joanne I am thrilled with so many squash recipes, love them. wonderful flavors!!

  54. I have never heard of nor had sage pesto but this looks fantastic, I was involved in an olive oil tasting at school the other day. T’was strange.

    I KNEW I could count on you to know the bones, duh 🙂

    Oh and I have to find this pasta…I envy you every time I see it on your blog!

  55. Mary says:

    I love winter vegetables and when combined with good olive oil they can reach sublime heights. This sounds wonderful. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  56. That Girl says:

    I think my first olive oil tasting was in Central CA. It’s addictive!

  57. I’d love to go to an olive oil tasting! Sounds like lots of fun.
    Love the squashtacular pasta. ? A medley of fall flavours.

  58. Olive oil tastings are a terrific way to find different oils for your recipes. I have one I use just to top dress a dish and another for general use.

  59. Beth says:

    I love every single ingredient you’ve used. What a fantastic recipe — and I love your take on pesto!

  60. Deborah says:

    I have never done an olive oil tasting, but this sure does make me want to try! This dish sounds amazing, and would be perfect for Thanksgiving!

  61. Love the veggies you’d used, simply nutritious and so yum!

  62. Allison says:

    I wish i was one of your roommates and I could steal your leftovers in the middle of the night. Good grief this looks amazing!

  63. Pesto made with sage? That’s a clever idea, I have to try it someday!

    Camila Faria

  64. Shannon says:

    oh yum, a good olive oil can be so complex! love everything about this dish 🙂

  65. tigerfish says:

    I could not believe when I was in Whole Foods last week and there were no brussel sprouts!!!??? Love your dish – so wholesome, healthy and I bet that tastes delicious.

  66. This pasta dish looks amazing!! So delicious!!! Love brussel sprouts and anything with walnuts, especially pasta, is a winner with me!!

  67. Yasmeen says:

    I love the caramelization on those sprouts! I’m also a big fan of sage, which I think is a hugely underrated herb. Just beautiful.

  68. This sounds delicious! I am a huge fan of Brussels sprouts. Thanks for the reminder that I’d better get out and harvest some sage before the first hard frost!

  69. Claudia says:

    I’ve cooked and eaten with olive my life (which is getting considerably …. long) and am still getting educated on olive oil. It’s ever-ending and great fun! The pasta dish just sings of autumn – both sweetly and boldly.

  70. Aarthi says:

    I love this dish a lot..Thanks for the recipe dear..Totally loving it….Following your blog straight away..If you have time Check out my blog too..

    I am having a Giveaway..

  71. Julie says:

    This looks so good. All of my favorite flavors!! Only problem is, no sage :(. My herb plants went with the old house! Have a great weekend.

  72. Seriously delicious sounding pasta creation! Sage pesto is brilliant, I haven’t thought of that. Your pasta dishes make me pine for radiatore!

  73. Elizabeth says:

    I haven’t cooked any brussels sprouts this year yet. It’s awful. Luckily I’ve had them out several times.

  74. Jennie says:

    Oh. My. Gosh….YES!!!!!!

  75. Lora says:

    This looks fantastic and that sage walnut pesto is divine!

  76. tafino says:

    I love pesto, and Carapelli is a delicious olive oil. Also recomend, not only for the taste also because cook with extra virgin olive oil makes the difference. Love the photos!

  77. Johanna GGG says:

    I know I don’t appreciate olive oil enough but I do love the sound of that pesto

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