Sometimes I come home from work, and I have plenty of time to make dinner. (My boyfriend will tell you that this never happens. He’s wrong. It happens at least once a month.) But I’ve been wearing heels all day, and my feet are tired. Or my internet is out again, and I have to sit on the phone for an hour. Or I’m just exhausted for whatever reason, and I don’t feel like standing in front of the stove for an hour.
Enter hardshell squash: the unsung heroes of winter (and summer and fall). You pop them in the oven and forget about them for half an hour to 45 minutes.
A few useful notes on butternut squash before we begin.
*Never buy a butternut squash that is deep orange in color. It should be a light creamy tan, much like butter (hence it’s name). Really orange = tastes really bad.
*Don’t refrigerate your hardshell squash unless it’s been cut into pieces. And, honestly, once it’s been cut, you should cook it right away. So just don’t refrigerate it.
*Some people will tell you, “Hey! You should totally peel your squash before you cook it! Then you don’t have to deal with holding onto a hot squash!” Do not listen to them. They are leading you astray. There is little in this life that I find as frustrating/tiresome as trying to peel a raw hardshell squash, and it is almost never necessary to your recipe.
*You have several choices for how to cook your hardshell squash: baking/steaming, boiling and microwaving. Microwaving usually takes about 10 – 12 minutes for a 4 lb squash, but, personally, I don’t like the taste as much when it’s been microwaved.
This recipe is similar to mashed potatoes, but healthier and sweeter. Because of the natural sweetness, I really like to serve this with spicy foods.
Butternut Squash Mash
1 large butternut squash (2 lb)
1/2 c – 1 c water, depending on the size of your pan
dash of salt
2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
1 T olive oil (optional)
Preheat your oven to 400F.
Cut off the stem and cut your squash in half. You’ll need a sharp knife and arm power. (They don’t call them hardshell squash for nothing.)
Tip: Once you have it nearly cut through, your knife might stick. Remove it careful and try tearing the halves apart instead.
Scoop out the seeds and strings, leaving the solid flesh behind.
Pour water into a pyrex or metal dish, enough to leave the water level about 1/2″ deep. Add your dash of salt. Place your squash cut side down in the pan. Roast for 30 – 45 minutes, until your fork sinks into the squash easily, and the peel has started to dimple.
Let it cool for 5-10 minutes until you can hold it to scrape out the insides.
This is what I meant about not need to peel it. The peel becomes so soft, it pulls apart at the slightest provocation.
In a small skillet, sauté your garlic in olive oil. Pull out the garlic, but you won’t need the oil. Combine your squash and garlic in a large bowl. Mash together. Yum!
I serve this with chicken, fish, beef, whatever you’d serve mashed potatoes with. But if you’re looking for a vegetarian option, try serving the below over the top of the mash.
Easy Tomato Ragu
2 T olive oil
1 large tomato (or 2 romas), chopped
1/4 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T dried basil
2 T red pepper flakes
salt & pepper to taste
In a medium skillet, combine all ingredients and stir to coat in olive oil. Simmer over medium low heat for ten minutes, until tomatoes begin to dissolve. Stir into your butternut mash and devour!