When the pumpkins go on the porch in October and November, squash goes on my menu. From acorn to butternut to spaghetti, I eat squash when it first comes into season about twice per week. By mid-November, I'm over it … until next year. Putting squash on the menu is an easy way to solve the question of what's for dinner on the weekdays between the holidays. Versatile squash has me covered.
Winter Squash — It's What's for Dinner
Perhaps the biggest turnoff people have when cooking winter squash is the tough skin. Frankly, it's a pain to peel. Luckily, there are a few winter squashes you don't have to peel. Butternut and acorn have thinner skin, so you don't have to worry about wielding a knife around their dangerous curves if you're in a hurry. Many stores now sell peeled and cubed butternut squash. Look for it in the refrigerated prepared vegetable section, where your grocer sells things like pre-chopped onions and such. You can even find cubed and puréed butternut squash in the freezer section. If you're looking to branch out beyond butternut squash, you're more likely to find them whole.
The Versatility of Butternut Squash
If I depend on any squash for weeknight cooking, it's butternut. That's because it's versatile and not intimidating. It makes a great soup — thrown in the slow cooker (or, my favorite, the Instant Pot) with some vegetable stock and ginger, finished off with cream and blended. For a twist, I sub out the cream for coconut milk and add some Indian spices before cooking. Butternut squash is also great in salad, especially when paired with toasted pumpkin seeds. It's also a great substitute for noodles in a baked lasagna. If I don't blanch the squash slices first, I just increase the time the lasagna is in the oven. Butternut is divine when puréed, yielding a sweet and nutty flavor with a creamy, velvety texture that serves as a veggie side to many weeknight meals.
Pro tip: Choose a squash that's heavy for its size, with even coloring. Avoid squashes with blemishes, soft spots, or dull skin. Butternut squash can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to three months.
I Love Spaghetti Squash
For me, there is no squash more underrated than the spaghetti squash. It's an agricultural marvel and if you've never tried to cook it before, you are missing out. The easiest method takes less than five minutes of prep, then 45 minutes to cook. Just slice it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then, place it on a baking sheet or in a baking dish and roast in a 375°F oven for 45 minutes. From there, the possibilities are endless.
- Top it! After it's cooked, scrape out the flesh (which now looks like spaghetti), and top it with meatballs or meat sauce, or with sautéed shrimp and a light lemon-garlic sauce.
- Stuff it! Even easier? Before you bake it, stuff it. Use your imagination. One of my standards is taco-seasoned ground turkey, but for football Sundays you can mix it up with Buffalo-seasoned ground chicken. Cut out the meat completely with combinations like broccoli and cheese or spinach and artichoke.
A Mini Guide for Spaghetti Squash
So, what about you? What are your go-to winter squash recipes?