This is a vegetarian dish that really might overshadow the turkey this Thanksgiving. Roasted to tender perfection and stuffed with quinoa, pecans, parmesan cheese and a crisp breadcrumb topping, twice-baked butternut squash can be made ahead (just re-warm in the oven) and are sure to be a hit at the holiday table.
As much as I love vegetables, I never give them as much attention as I do at Thanksgiving and Christmas. This time of year, vegetable sides deserve a little extra love.
Despite that, I was hesitant to fiddle with perfection when a few of these little butternut squash started turning up around Bangkok. My friend Natalie scooped these up for me when she saw them at the grocery store. They were so little that she had them in her purse when we met up for drinks this week.
I have to think that if there’s one thing worth doing with butternut squash, it’s filling them with quinoa, pecans, and parmesan, topping them with breadcrumbs and baking them until they’re golden, crisp, and bubbly.
This filling was the clear winner, but I also tried a delicious combination of pancetta, gruyere, caramelized onion, and sage. You could take these twice-baked butternut squash in just about any direction.
I used small butternut squash (about 8 oz. each) which are undeniably fun for serving, but a big squash would be beautiful as well.
The squash can be roasted a day or two in advance, and the entire dish can even be assembled a night ahead. Just cover and refrigerate and bake the next day.
We needed a lot of vegetables this weekend to balance the buttery, creamy, stuffing balls that are the crown jewel of any Thanksgiving in which Frank has a hand. Frank’s mom sent the ingredients to him from home, so here’s hoping they get here in time.
Anyone else making squash for Thanksgiving this week?
- 4 pounds of butternut squash (about 2 regular, or 4 small)
- salt and pepper
- ⅔ cup uncooked quinoa
- ⅔ cup pecan halves, roughly chopped
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 1 small shallot, minced
- ½ tsp. dried oregano
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ¾ cups panko breadcrumbs
- 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
- 4 oz. (115g.) parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Wash the outside of the squash. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds (I use an ice cream scoop). Place the squash halves cut-side up in a large baking dish. Sprinkle the surface of the squash with salt and pepper. Pour ¼ inch of water in the bottom of the pan and cover the pan tightly with foil. Bake the squash until it is tender when pierced with a fork, 30-50 minutes depending on the size (my little ones were done in 30). Remove from the oven, discard foil, and allow the squash to cool.
- Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees F.
- Meanwhile, cook the quinoa by bringing 1 and ⅓ cup water to boil in a small pot. Add the quinoa, reduce to a simmer and put a lid on the pot. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Heat a skillet over medium heat. Toast the pecans until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Set aside. In the same skillet over medium heat, combine the olive oil and shallots. Cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots soften, about 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat.
- Using a spoon or an ice cream scoop, gently scrape the flesh out of the roasted squash halves, leaving a layer of about ¼ inch of squash remaining in the shell. (Leave the squash shells in the baking dish.) In a large bowl combine the squash, cooked quinoa, pecans, shallot, oregano, and salt. In another small bowl whisk together the panko breadcrumbs and butter.
- Finely grate the parmesan cheese. Add 2 Tbsp. of the cheese to the panko. Add the remaining parmesan to the squash mixture and stir to combine all of the ingredients.
- Gently spoon the squash mixture into the squash shells. Sprinkle the panko and parmesan over the top.
- Return squash to the oven and bake, uncovered, until the tops are golden brown, 20-25 minutes.