Oct 28, 2020

LET’S DISH! Let’s Talk About Butternut Squash

By MaryAnn Miano

Thanksgiving places turkey as the main entrée to your table every year, but often it’s the delectable side dishes that really make the grand feast delicious. It’s true that the turkey takes a lot of preparation, so focus on somewhat simpler-to-prepare side dishes in order to make your holiday a taste sensation for your guests.

Butternut squash is the perfect addition to your Thanksgiving fare. It can be found in abundance in the fall, and unlike other winter squashes, it is easy to slice and peel. Butternut is easy to store (no need to refrigerate uncut squash), easy to bake, reasonably priced and easily adaptable as a good substitute for your pumpkin recipes. Butternut’s flesh is moist, deep orange and sweet, and its skin is smooth and cream-colored.  Shaped like a bell, the seeds are stored in its bulbous bottom.

Preparing butternut squash is a snap.  Cut the squash in half with a chef’s knife.  Scoop out the seeds with a spoon, and cut the squash into small chunks. The skin can be pared off with a vegetable peeler. Another way to prepare it is to simply cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, bake on a baking sheet until soft then add a topping of butter, maple syrup and a sprinkle of walnuts. Or try using only a brushing of oil on each squash half, a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg, along with a pinch of salt and pepper. You will know the squash is cooked when a knife easily pierces the flesh, sliding in effortlessly. After baking flesh side down in a pan until tender, the flesh can easily be removed from the shell and mashed or browned under the broiler for several minutes.

As wonderful as butternut squash tastes, it is also an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C, manganese, and potassium. It is extremely high in vitamin A, is high in fiber and complex carbohydrates. The butternut squash has extraordinary amounts of beta carotene along with trace amounts of B vitamins. Iron and calcium join the ranks of the type of nutritious value you can find in the butternut.

Steam it, sauté it, bake or braise it; use it in soups, casseroles, breads, pies and even ravioli – anyway you cook it, the popular butternut squash is a hit! Try the following recipe to capture two sides, rice and squash, in one dish. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!



Risotto with Squash


1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ½ inch cubes

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 cup minced onions

2 tablespoons minced shallots

2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice

½ cup dry white wine

6 ½ cups hot chicken stock or canned low sodium chicken broth

½ teaspoon salt, or as needed

½ cup chopped scallions (about 6)

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits

½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Freshly ground black pepper




  1. Steam the squash until tender but still firm, about 10 minutes. Transfer half of it to a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Scrape out the squash purée into a small bowl. Set the purée and diced squash aside.
  2. In a heavy, wide, 3- to 4 quart casserole or pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Cook the onions and shallots together until golden, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Toast the rice until the edges become translucent, 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Pour in the wine and stir well until evaporated. Add ½ cup of the hot stock and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until all the stock has been absorbed. Add the squash purée, diced squash and scallions. Continue to add hot stock in small batches – just enough to completely moisten the rice – and cook until each successive batch has been absorbed. Stir constantly and adjust the level of heat so the rice is simmering gently until the rice mixture is creamy but al dente. This will take 16 to 20 minutes from the first addition of stock.
  4. Remove the casserole from the heat. Beat in the butter first until melted, then the cheese. Adjust the seasoning with salt, if necessary, and pepper. Serve immediately, ladled into warm, shallow bowls.


Optional: Try adding diced apples and a touch of cinnamon to the finished dish.

Recipe from “Lidia’s Italian Table,” page 166, By Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, Publisher:  William Morrow & Company, Inc., New York, 1998.