Ingredient Introduction #40 – Butternut Squash

I haven’t been this offended by an ingredient since the daikon.

I don’t have to explain. Just look at the picture.

The butternut squash and I actually go way back.

Go ahead, call me a fake… a fraud… a phony.

But I assure you, this is my proper introduction to this obscenely oblong ingredient.

Long ago, when I first started cooking, I tried a recipe by my girl, Giada.

It was a butternut squash gratin that layered mashed squash with pesto and Parmesan cheese.

I nearly killed myself trying to peel the stupid thing. Then, while steaming chunks of it, I charred a pot. I’m talking, smoke billowing out of my kitchen like the pits of hell. It’s all because I let the water run out of the pot while the squash was supposedly steaming above it. I had to put the pot outside my apartment. The bottom of it was so black, I had to get rid of it.

Still, I made the God-awful gratin. I hated the flavor and threw it away.

So, this is really a redemption. Truthfully, I wanted to be re-introduced after seeing these locally-grown gourds at the farmers’ market.

I got two, and took my chances.

The skin is light and creamy-colored, almost a shade of khaki. But the flesh is an electric orange. It’s like having a sunset on your countertop.

After posting a photo of my market bounty, which included the butternuts, I got comments encouraging me to make soup.

I wanted to do it, I really did. But I didn’t.

I needed to go back to the mashed version that initially led me astray.

Meet the butternut squash ravioli.

I could’ve, and should’ve, taken the lead of my recent post about pasta from scratch, but I didn’t.

Time wasn’t on my side, so I went for a shortcut.

Here’s what you need:

1 butternut squash
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. garlic powder
Olive oil for drizzling
1 egg
1 package of wonton wrappers

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

While the oven gets going, prepare the squash. You could peel it with a peeler or paring knife, and then cube the squash, but that’s a pain.

I left the skin on and cut the thing in half.

Cut the stem end from the squash to make a flat surface.

If the bottom side isn’t flat, cut it, too.

Making a flat surface keeps the squash from rolling while you cut it in half.

With the squash standing on a cutting board, cut through it lengthwise. Be careful. It takes some strength.

Once it’s halved, used a spoon to scoop out the seeds and the goop from the cavity. It’s just like working with a pumpkin.

Pierce the skin side with a knife in several places.

Then, rub olive oil on the flesh side. Sprinkle it with salt.

Put it on the cookie sheet flesh side down and roast for 35 minutes.

Let it cool.

Then, scoop out the softened flesh into a bowl.

Mash it together with the cheese, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and a few sprinkles of freshly grated nutmeg.

Now, set up your wonton wrappers.

Beat an egg with a bit of water.

In the center of each wonton wrapper put a small dollop of the butternut squash mixture. Aim for a teaspoon-sized mound.

Then, dip your finger in the egg wash and run it around the edge of the wrapper. Top it with another wrapper.

Gently push down around the filling to get the air out of the pocket, and then push together the edges of the wonton wrappers, letting the egg act as glue.

Repeat this for as many wontons as you like.

One butternut squash will make 20-25 ravioli.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

While the water heats, decide on your sauce.

You can serve them with a drizzle of olive oil or melted butter, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and chopped sage.

Or, you can make a brown butter to add a rich, nutty flavor to it. That’s what I did.

If you want to do the brown butter, make it while the water boils. Put 5-6 tablespoons of butter in a pan. Add chopped sage and put the pan over medium high heat until the butter turns a hazelnut brown. The sage gets dark and crispy. Keep it on low while you cook the ravioli.

When the water boils, add a good bit of salt and drop in the ravioli. Cook them in batches for 3-4 minutes.

Put the cooked ravioli on plates and drizzle with the brown butter or olive oil/melted butter.

The wonton wrapper gets translucent and very soft. It’s almost non-existent. That’s why I like it. It lets the filling be the star.

Typical pasta ravioli can be heavy and act like a thick cloak that masks the goodies it’s enveloping.

These ravioli almost looked like egg yolks. The butternut squash is just that beautiful.

It really stands out here. I tried to keep the filling simple so you can taste the squash.

This dish made a believer out of my squash-hating partner in cuisine crime.

The butternut squash is creamy, sweet, and pumpkiny. All the brown butter makes it luscious and nutty.

You’ll get a good dose of Vitamins A and C, and some potassium from butternut squash.

Of course, you can puree it and make soup.

Or you can peel and cube it, then roast it. Eat it in cubes like you would a sweet potato. Roasting it that way caramelizes it, enhancing its natural sweetness.

I still don’t recommend that gratin. Sorry, Giada.

Butternut squash is a Winter winner. Get one. They’re everywhere right now.

Look past the shape and get cooking.

Tip: Save the seeds! They’re better than pumpkin seeds. Just rinse off the goo, dry, then spread on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on some salt, garlic powder, or curry powder, or your favorite spice and roast at 425 for a few minutes. Keep an eye on them, they’ll burn.



3 Comments Add yours

  1. Good stuff in here Mike. I didn’t really think about baking it like you did. Excellent idea. I love butternut squash but peeling it, even with a really good vegetable peeler, is scary experience. Your method makes so much sense. And I never thought about roasting the seeds! The ravioli looks wonderful. I bet you could do the same thing with sweet potato, acorn squash or pumpkin??
    Thanks for sharing your talents and insights!

  2. Justin Cox says:

    You should try Giada’s butternut squash soup recipe. So easy and tasty! It’s also super easy to peel, cube, and roast it.

    1. I’ll have to check that out! I have one squash left.

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