Today I’m back in my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland to be a bridesmaid in my friend Emily’s wedding. Emily is one of my oldest and best friends, and she’s also a big reason I became interested in cooking. When I moved to New York, Emily was already living there. She participated in a CSA (community supported agriculture) and every week would get big bag fulls of vegetables. We’d get together once a week and have a family dinner together using whatever vegetables she had. Together we stir fried, roasted, and boiled all kinds of veggies and sometimes our creations came out well and sometimes they didn’t. Those weekly dinners got me more interested in cooking (and also in vegetables), so today’s post about how to roast and prepare a butternut squash is dedicated to Emily.
During the fall it’s socially acceptable to go squash crazy and eat them in in soups, sandwiches, stir fries, and even in drinks (I love you pumpkin spice latte). The mixture of hearty and slightly sweet makes squash one of my favorite food groups to eat and cook. However, for all of squash’s glory, I think they can be kind of intimidating. They are big, dense, and difficult to cut. No one wants to slice a finger trying to prepare dinner.
But it actually doesn’t have to be so hard. Just a few steps and a few simple tools, along with some patience and you’ll be the squash master in no time. Yes, the squash master. All you really need is a fork, a vegetable peeler, and a strong large chef’s knife. Oh, and I guess a cutting board. A spoon is helpful when it comes to scooping out the seeds, but the fork and knife together work fine too if you don’t want to dirty an additional utensil.
Ok, so first what you do is take your butternut squash and wash it. Even though you’ll be peeling off the skin it’s good to wash it because once you start peeling, your peeler will touch the dirty skin and then touch the dirty inner flesh. Now take your fork and stab the squash all over. You don’t need to make it crazy full of holes, but enough holes throughout. Then just pop the squash in the microwave and heat it for 2 minutes on high. This is just to cook it just a smidge and soften it up so preparation is easier later.
Side note, while I’m thinking about it, this preparation would work for other squashes that fit in your microwave. I’ve done it with acorn squashes before. I’ve never worked with a whole pumpkin, so I’m not sure about that – however pumpkins are less dense and therefore maybe easier to cut. But I’m getting off topic.
Take the butternut squash out of the microwave and let it cool until you can handle it. Use your knife and cut the ends off of the squash then peel it. From here you just want to cut it into uniform sized cubes, and you can do that whatever way you like best. For me, I like to cut the butternut squash in “half” at the point where it bulbs out. That way I have one half with seeds and one without. For the half without seeds, I’ll cut 1″ thick rounds, and then cut those rounds into 9 pieces, like a tic-tac-toe board. Then for the seeded half, I’ll cut it in half again, scrape out the seeds using my fork and knife (or a spoon if you like). From there I’ll cut long strips, then cut those strips into chunks. If these directions are confusing DON’T WORRY! Just cut your butternut squash into equal-ish pieces. I recommend about a 1″ cube or thickness. This way everything will cook evenly and you have nice big biteable chunks.
From here, you want to heat your oven to a high heat. Throw the squash cubes into a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast the squash until fork tender – and that’s it. It’s pretty easy! If you want to step it up a notch, like the recipe shown at the picture in the top, here’s an easy add on. Roughly chop some sage and pecans and toast them in a dry frying pan until fragrant. When the butternut squash is ready just mix in the sage and pecans and you have a super delicious side dish. Job done ya’ll. Now you’re ready to be squash master.
Adapted from Torey Avey.
Messy level: Two spoons. Preparing and roasting a butternut squash is pretty easy and neat. The added sage and pecans creates just one extra dish. For not a lot of work and very few dishes, you’ll have a great side perfect for the season or for Thanksgiving.
- 1 butternut squash, about 3 pounds but really any size will do
- 1½ tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2-3 tablespoons roughly chopped sage leaves
- ½ cup roughly chopped pecans
- Preheat oven to 450°F/230°C.
- Stab the butternut squash all over with a fork.
- Put the squash in the microwave for 2 minutes on high heat.
- Remove the squash from the microwave and let cool until you can handle it.
- Once you can handle it, cut the ends of the butternut squash, peel the squash, and remove the seeds, and cut the flesh into 1" chunks. (For more details on how to do this see the post's text)
- Put the squash in a roasting pan. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
- Sprinkle the squash with the salt and pepper. Stir so all the squash is evenly coated with the seasonings.
- Roast in the oven for 30-45 minutes or until the squash is fork-tender.
- Meanwhile, in the last ½ tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet. Add in the sage and pecans. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the sage wilts a bit and the pecans start to smell fragrant. This takes just a few minutes.
- Once the squash is done cooking stir in the sage and pecans.