Every time a new season rolls around, I exclaim that it is my favorite. I guess that comes from being a cook who loves to spend time in the kitchen and is inspired by seasonal ingredients. After working with the same elements for a few months, it is exciting for me to visit a local farmer’s market or greengrocer and see new seasonal ingredients appear. With the arrival of fall here in Italy, we have a large selection of winter greens, many with vibrant flavors, a huge choice of apples and pears, and of course, my favorite, winter squash. The variety of squash here in central Umbria is much more limited than what is available in the states, but over the last few years I have been able to buy a couple of varieties of pumpkin, and butternut squash is finally available in many stores.
I could eat butternut squash daily and never tire of it because it is so versatile. Butternut squash is a type of winter squash that grows on a vine and has a sweet, nutty taste similar to that of a pumpkin, It has a tan-yellow skin and orange fleshy pulp with a center of edible seeds in the rounded bottom. When ripe, it turns increasingly deep orange and becomes sweeter and more flavorful. It is a good source of fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium; and it is a source of vitamin A. Although technically a fruit, butternut squash is used as a vegetable that can be roasted, sautéed, toasted, puréed for soups or used in pasta sauces, or mashed to be used in casseroles, bread, muffins, and pies. My chickens also enjoy in the fall bounty as they love the stringy inner flesh and seeds!
Two years ago I ran all over the small towns close to our farmhouse here in Umbria looking for butternut squash and could only find one at a Bio or health food store. I am embarrassed to admit that I spent eight euros on one tiny squash, but I really wanted it for a recipe that I was interested in making. This year, butternut squash seems to be everywhere, and when I found three large squash at our local grocery for a crazy low price, I bought all three. I spent less than five euros and now have enough squash to use in any fall recipes I want to test for the next few months!
With the arrival of October, Thanksgiving is really just around the corner so I am now thinking of fall side dishes that can be used for both Thanksgiving as well as enjoyed all winter long. My family loves the sweet and savory flavor of roasted butternut squash so I know if I serve this as a side it will be quickly gobbled up. This recipe combines the sweetness of cinnamon and maple syrup with the savory by adding lots of cracked black pepper and chopped fresh rosemary. To dress this dish up even further to serve as a holiday side, you could sprinkle it with pomegranate arils, or toss it with crispy bacon bits.
Deborah Mele 2018
Roasted Butternut Squash With Cinnamon & Maple
Butternut squash is flavored with maple syrup and cinnamon and then oven roasted to a golden brown perfection.
- 1 Large Butternut Squash (About 3 to 3 1/2 Pounds)
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 3/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
- 1 Teaspoon Cracked Black Pepper
- 3 Tablespoons Finely Chopped Fresh Rosemary
- 3/4 Cup Pomegranate Arils
- 3/4 Cup Crispy Bacon Bits
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Line two large baking sheets with aluminum foil, and coat with non-stick spray.
- Peel the squash, scoop out the seeds and stringy flesh, and cut into 1-inch cubes.
- Place the squash in a bowl along with the oil, syrup, salt, and cinnamon, and toss to coat.
- Spread the squash over the two baking sheets and then roast for 15 minutes.
- Use a spatula to turn, then roast until tender and lightly browned, about another 10 to 15 minutes.
- Remove the squash from the oven and arrange on a platter.
- Sprinkle with the chopped rosemary and black pepper.
- If using the arils or bacon bits, sprinkle them on at the same time.
- Serve warm and enjoy!