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So often we don’t buy those beautiful yet strange looking winter squash varieties in the store for fear of knowing how to prepare them back at home. This week, I’m taking you through my favorite and easy ways to cook with winter squash. Have you ever considered making roasted squash the star of your pasta night?
Winter squash is easier and faster to prep than you think!
For the easiest way to prep a winter squash, big or small, don’t worry about peeling it before cooking. Just cut it into two halves, remove the seeds, and roast cut side down with a little olive oil and salt at 425F for 20-30 minutes. In my Joyful 12 Kitchen Learning Lab, I teach families simple techniques to prep 48 vegetables in a year, with short technique videos like the one below which shows you the easiest and safest way to peel and cube a butternut squash, so you know how to when your recipe calls for it!
Once you learn how easy it is to prep winter squash, you can save money instead of buying the pre-cut option at the store, and you’ll have more control over the size you cut the squash. Remember, if you cut it smaller, it will cook faster in the oven!
Roast it like a baked potato!
Small delicata squash often replace that baked potato on our family’s dinner plate. The cool thing about these little squash is that their skin is so delicate, you can eat it just like a baked potato skin. We love to top ours with a little yogurt and some crunchy pumpkin seeds.
Smash and stuff it into your favorite quesadilla!
Acorn squash are one of my all-time favorite varieties to use when I want a fast cooking squash that’s loaded with flavor. I like to scoop out the roasted flesh and mash it with some of my favorite spicy salsa to stuff my Roasted Winter Squash and Mozzarella Quesadillas, perfect for a hearty Meatless Monday meal!
Make it the star of your pasta night!
In my Brown Butter Roasted Squash Pasta with Chicken Apple Sausage recipe, I utilize the easy technique of roasting squash and turn it into a meal by making a simple brown butter sage sauce and tossing it altogether with some gluten free noodles and pan seared chicken apple sausage. What’s great about this pasta is that it’s heavy on winter veggie nutrients and while a butter sauce may sound heavy as you’re looking for ways to eat well in the New Year, this sauce is homemade with only 3 ingredients which are all organic (omega-3 rich butter from grass fed cows) and full of flavor (fresh sage and ground nutmeg).
- butternut squash, 1 medium
- unsalted organic butter, 1 stick
- chicken and apple sausage, 2 links (fully cooked)
- sage (fresh), 6 leaves
- olive oil, 1.5 TBS (divided)
- salt, 2 tsps (divided)
- pasta shells (gluten free), 1 box (8 oz)
- parmesan cheese (grated), ½ cup
- Take 5 minutes to get out all your ingredients, measuring and cooking equipment needed, and place them on a cookie sheet within easy reach.
- Peel and cut squash into cubes. If you’ve bought pre-cut squash, make sure the pieces are not too big. If needed, cut those in half quickly.
- Cube the stick of butter and set aside in a small bowl. Culinary note: cubing it allows you more control than dumping one big piece of butter in the pan.
- Cut the chicken apple sausage into halves and then into half moon slices. Heat in a pan for 10 minutes with ½ tablespoon olive oil, to brown.
- Stack sage leaves on top of each other. Roll them up like a cigar and then cut across making thin strips. You can further cut into smaller pieces if you like.
- Preheat oven to 400F. At the same time, bring a large pot of water to a boil (to cook the pasta shells).
- Toss cubed squash in 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt.
- On a parchment lined baking sheet, spread squash evenly so that they are not overcrowded.
- Roast for 30 minutes, flipping them over after 15 minutes to allow multiple sides to brown. Set aside.
- Once the pasta water has come to a boil, add pasta and cook to package instructions.
- While the pasta is cooking, you have time to make your sauce.
- Place cubed butter in a pan, over medium high heat.
- Swirl the pan every so often. Look for the milk solids from the butter to start separating from the butterfat. They look like little milk clouds.
- At this point, pay close attention with your nose and eyes, for the point when the milk solids will start to smell like roasting hazelnuts and small brown bits will appear at the bottom of the pan.
- Continuously swirl the butter in the pan so you can see the color changing.
- Trust your nose before you trust your eyes! This happens very fast and to avoid burning, you’ll want to err on the side of caution to pull the pan off the heat once you see the amber color brown bits in the butter.
- Add chopped sage to the sauce after you’ve pulled it off the heat and swirl in the pan.
- Drain cooked pasta, place it in a big bowl with the roasted squash and cooked chicken apple sausage, and pour brown butter sage sauce on top. Mix together with 1 teaspoon salt.
- We love this dish served warm with some shredded Parmesan cheese on top. Enjoy!