Roasted butternut squash & red onion with tahini & za’atar

January 9, 2015 at 4:09 pm (A (4 stars, love, favorite), Derek's faves, Fall recipes, Middle East / N. Africa, Ottolenghi, Vegetable dishes, Winter recipes, Yearly menu plan)

I had a butternut squash that was starting to go bad, and I asked Derek to choose a recipe to use it up. He chose this Yotam Ottolenghi recipe for roasted butternut squash and red onion with tahini and za’atar, which I was happy about, because it would allow me to use up some of the zaatar I bought to make the last Ottolenghi recipe we tried (this za’atar spiced beet dip). You can find more comments about the recipe (and a photo!) on this seriouseats page.


  • 1 large butternut squash (around 1.1kg=2.42 lbs), cut into 2cm x 6cm wedges
  • 2 red onions, cut into 3cm wedges
  • 50ml olive oil (3 Tbs +1 tsp.)
  • 1 3/4 tsp. Maldon sea salt (divided)
  • black pepper
  • 3½ tbsp tahini paste
  • 1½ tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed
  • 30g pine nuts
  • 1 tbsp za’atar
  • 1 tbsp roughly chopped parsley


  1. Heat the oven to to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Put the squash and onions in a large bowl, add three tablespoons of oil, a teaspoon of salt and some black pepper, and toss well. Spread, skin down, on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes until the vegetables have taken on some colour and are cooked through. Keep an eye on the onions: they may cook faster than the squash, so may need to be removed earlier. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  2. Put the tahini in a small bowl with the lemon juice, water, garlic and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Whisk to the consistency of honey, adding more water or tahini as necessary.
  3. Pour the remaining oil into a small frying pan on a medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts and half a teaspoon of salt, cook for two minutes, stirring, until the nuts are golden brown, then tip the nuts and oil into a small bowl.
  4. To serve, spread the vegetables on a platter and drizzle over the sauce. Scatter the pine nuts and oil on top, followed by the za’atar and parsley.

My notes:

I didn’t read the instructions carefully and peeled my squash, since I don’t normally eat the peel of butternut squash. I’m curious what the dish would taste with with the peel still on. I also wasn’t sure exactly how to cut the squash (an illustration would have helped), and I ended up cutting some of the pieces a bit too small I think. Next time I might try using a bit more squash (maybe 2.75 – 3 pounds?) and cutting larger wedges so that everything still fits on the cookie sheet.

My red onions weren’t that large, so I used 3 instead of 2. I’m not sure how large they’re supposed to be. They finished cooking before the squash.

I didn’t think the pine nuts added all that much, although I do have to admit that I bought very cheap pine nuts, and so maybe that was the problem. Next time I might try a different nut like pistachios or almonds.

I used frozen chopped parsley, and couldn’t really taste it much. I don’t know if I needed more or if I just should have used fresh parsley.

Derek was worried that a tablespoon of zatar was too much, but it’s quite a mild spice and we ended up using all of it.

I missed the fact that the recipe calls for Maldon sea salt, which I assume is much larger than regular fine salt. I added a full teaspoon of fine salt to the veggies, and then realized it was a ton, so I cut the other two salt amounts in half. The dish still ended up a bit too salty for me, although Derek thought it was perfect. Next time I’d cut the salt in the veggies to 3/4 teaspoon as well.

Derek loved this dish. He said it tasted like restaurant food (the ultimate compliment in his book)! I enjoyed it as well, although I thought it tasted very rich. I think next time I might try it with a tad less olive oil in the veggies, and maybe roast the nuts dry not in oil. I wouldn’t cut down on the tahini though. The bitterness it adds is essential to balance out all the sweetness from the squash and onions.

I made the tahini sauce in the same bowl I used to toss the veggies with the oil. So in the end the dish used one cookie sheet, one large bowl, and one small pan. If I switch to roasting the nuts dry then the small pan will be super easy to clean, and then it’s basically just one bowl and one sheet. Not too bad. Almost weekday easy, especially if you don’t have to peel the squash.

This dish is pretty low on protein, so it would probably be best to serve it with a higher protein side dish. Hmm… Any ideas?

Update March 2018:

After peeling and removing the gut and seeds my squash weighed about 1.2 kg, but it still fit fine on the cookie sheet and browned well. I think we cut the pieces a tad too small though. Next time we should cut them a tad thicker—at least the ones from the bulb of the squash, which are pretty narrow in the middle. I used the full 3 Tbs. of olive oil and tsp. of fleur de sel salt to toss the squash in, but afterwards there was some oil left in the bowl. I used the same oil to toss the pine nuts (without adding anything extra to them). Then I made the dressing in the same large bowl. Otherwise I followed the recipe carefully and it came out quite well. I served it with a (doubled) batch of sambar for dinner for 4 adults, and we ate most of the sambar and almost all of the squash dish. I thought it was a nice combination.


  1. Susan said,

    I want to try this.Delicious
    possibility for sure. I should have a butternut squash from my garden by June 2015 so I will make it then. But where are the grades?

  2. Leti said,

    Thank you for this recipe. We did it yesterday and it was really good! Not quite good as yours but we were happy, we really enjoyed it!
    The first time I made it I had no squash so I used German sweet potatoe and it was also good, so yesterday we did it with sweet potatoe, squash and red onion…delicious.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: