I’ve tried various ways of cooking winter squash–covered, uncovered, with water, dry, oiled… After all my experimentation I’ve decided that the best method is to coat the squash with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle it with salt, place it face-down on a cookie sheet, and roast it at a high temperature. So I felt vindicated when Cook’s Illustrated in their cookbook The Best Light Recipe came to the same conclusion. Make sure to cook the squash until well done to ensure the sweetest flavor and smoothest texture. The oil is essential to promote browning, but the foil is just for ease of cleanup, and can be skipped. This recipe can be made with many different varieties of squash, including acorn, buttercup, butternut, or delicata squash.
Roasted Squash Halves
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 medium or 2 small winter squash (2 pounds), halved lengthwise and seeded
- salt and black pepper
Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position (remove pizza stone if you have one), and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and brush the foil with half the oil. Brush the cut sides of the squash with the remaining oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the squash cut side down on the foil. Roast until a fork can be slipped easily into the center of the squash, 30-50 minutes, depending on the type of squash. This yields squash with a good chewy texture and a sweet, carmelized flavor. Note that if your squash is really big (3-4 pounds), it might take a long time to cook it halved. In that case you might want to peel and chunk the squash before roasting it.
Diced Roasted Squash
The above recipe is for whole roasted squash. Below is Cook’s Illustrated’s recipe for roasted squash that is diced.
- 2 pounds winter squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes (make sure all the greenish layer under the skin is removed). Should yield about 1 pound of trimmed pieces.
- 1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 Tbs.)
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 2 tsp. minced fresh thyme
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. pepper
Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position (removing any pizza stones you might have lying around) and heat the oven to 450 degrees. (Cook’s Illustrated says lower temperatures just take longer to cook but at higher temperatures the squash will burn before cooking fully.) Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Toss the squash, shallot, oil, thyme, salt and pepper together on the prepared baking sheet. Spread the squash pieces into an even layer. Roast, shaking the pan after 15 minutes, until the squash is tender and evenly browned, 25 to 35 minutes. Cook’s Illustrated says this recipe is best with butternut, buttercup, or hubbard squash.
Note: It’s better to toss the squash and oil on the baking sheet rather than in a bowl, because this oils the cookie sheet well and saves some dishes!
Butternut Squash Diced: I followed the Cook’s Illustrated instructions and really did not like how it turned out. The shallot burnt, and so did much of the squash. I admit, I had a hard time cutting it uniformly so some pieces were smaller, and some were larger, but squash is just hard to make into uniform pieces because it’s so irregular shaped. I think 450 is really too high for cooking diced squash, at least for 30 minutes. Maybe 450 for the first five minutes then 375 after that? Also, I really didn’t care for the fresh thyme (even when it wasn’t burnt to a crisp). Don’t get me wrong, I love thyme, but I felt like it covered up the squash flavor rather than augmenting it. It also somehow masks the natural sweetness of butternut squash. I think sage goes better.
I tried this recipe again, but I didn’t weight my squash beforehand. I weighed the prepped pieces and they weighed 1 pound 6 ounces. Cook’s Illustrated says this recipe serves 6. If so, those are 6 tiny side servings. From my 1 pound 6 ounces of squash (rather than the 1 pound CI says you will use) I only got about 2.5 cups of cooked squash. In my mind that’s really just 2 servings, or maybe 5 small side servings.
Next time maybe I’ll try a larger dice, or wedges. If nothing else, it will be faster to chop the squash up.
Kabocha Squash Wedges: Cook’s Illustrated didn’t mention Kabocha in their list of squash. I roasted kabocha squash once before, and I remember it coming out very moist, succulent, sweet, and delicious. This time I used quite a bit of oil (2.5 Tbs. for one squash) because I didn’t want it dry, and also sprinkled on salt, pepper, and seasonings like paprika and thyme. I scooped out the seeds and cut it into wedges, but didn’t peel it. I baked it in a 9×13 pyrex pan. I don’t remember the temperature or timing.
It’s not bad, especially with my black bean chili, but it’s somewhat dry and starchy tasting. My friend actually really liked it. The really nice thing is that I didn’t have to peel it. I’m pretty picky about squash peels but I don’t mind eating kabocha with the peel on at all. Not having to peel saves a lot of time. But I wish I could remember what I did before to get it to be so moist and succulent.
Update Sept 2009:
I roasted a butternut squash last night. It was a pretty big squash–I got about 2 pounds 10 ounces of edible squash out of it. I diced it into large cubes, about 1-inch square each. I started by preheating the oven to about 475. I tossed the squash with 1 Tbs. of olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. pace, and a sprinkle of fresh black pepper, then poured it onto a large cookie sheet lined with foil. There was a little bit more room on the cookie sheet, but not much. I don’t think I could have fit much more than 2 pounds 12 ounces on it without the squashing being too crowded and steaming rather than roasting. Immediately after I put the squash in the oven I turned the temperature down to 400, but I left the fan running. I baked the squash until it started to brown on top (maybe 30 minutes?), then flipped it and turned the temperature down to just keep the temperature warm. The squash turned out extremely well. The pieces were just a tad caramelized, but still plump and moist. The spices were good, but not perfect. I got about 4.75 cups of cooked squash out. I’d say that’s about 6 side servings.
The next day I tried to replicate what I did. I used 2 pounds 12 ounces of squash, diced into 1-inch dice. The cubes were perhaps slightly larger than the previous day. (Maybe I had done 3/4 inch dice before?) I tossed the squash with 1 Tbs. olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. cumin, and 1/2 tsp. chili flakes. There was still a little space on the pan, but maybe it was very slightly more crowded than the previous night. I preheated the oven to 500, then turned it down to 375 but kept the fan running when I put in the squash. I checked the squash after 25 minutes and it was extremely soft, and more steamed than roasted. I’m not sure what I did wrong. It also tasted less oily, and less sweet. It could have been that this squash was simply not as good, or I cooked it too long, or maybe last time I actually used more than 1 Tbs. of olive oil? Also, using cumin instead of nutmeg could have made it less sweet. I couldn’t even taste the cumin. The chili flakes were a bad idea, as they tended to burn.
Update Dec 2010:
Alex saw the Kuri squashes I had lying around and wanted to make them for dinner. She peeled one and removed the seeds, then cut it into very large dice–maybe 1.5 inch cubes. We tossed the cubes with a little oil and salt and pepper, then placed them on a black cookie sheet. We roasted the squash at 400 degrees until soft, then I turned off the oven and let the squash sit in the oven til it was cool. The squash ended up amazingly sweet and melt-in-your-mouth soft. The texture was very smooth and creamy.
The next day I roasted the other Kuri squash, but this time I just cut the squash in half and removed the seeds, then rubbed oil and salt on the inside of the squash. I baked it at 400 until Derek smelled burning. The sugary juice had oozed out and was bubbling up and burning all over the cookie sheet. I pulled the squash out and it was extremely soft. But the flavor wasn’t nearly as good as the diced squash the night before.