Twice-Baked Butternut Squash with Ricotta and Sage, a.k.a. The Day I Fell In Love With Ricotta Cheese.
Discovering new ingredients is one of the most rewarding parts of writing this blog. I can only imagine what a cooking rut I’d be stuck in if I wasn’t always brainstorming new recipes!
But seriously, in 2+ years of writing this blog, why has no one told me about ricotta?
I mean, I knew about ricotta, but I’d be surprised if I’ve ever used it. I’ve only ever known it in stuffed shells and lasagna, dishes which (let’s be honest) I’m too lazy to make. But as I was planning this twice-baked butternut squash, Deb from Smitten Kitchen made these Squash Toasts with Ricotta and Cider Vinegar. I served them as an appetizer a few weekends ago, and though I ended up using goat cheese instead out of convenience, it occurred to me that ricotta would be the perfect thing to add creaminess to this twice-baked squash.
Waaaas it ever. The tangy ricotta and sweet, smooth butternut are a match made in heaven. Which brings me to the whole butternut part of the equation…
I’ve hopefully made no secret of the fact that butternut squash is one of my favorite vegetables. I sometimes avoid it because it’s so difficult to handle, but since I came into possession of a sharp chef’s knife thanks to my mother-in-law, I find it a lot less unpleasant to grapple with. For me, the secrets to cooking with butternut squash without feeling like I have anger management issues are:
1) …buying relatively small squash, so that cutting through them is easier. To me, there seems to be a strong positive correlation between size of squash and likelihood of severing a finger.
2) …never, ever making a recipe that involves peeling the squash first. Yes, there are such recipes in the Coffee & Quinoa archives… and yes, they are some of my favorites… but let’s face it, you should know what you’re getting yourself into before you peel a butternut squash. After discovering the freezer-to-oven roasting trick I talked about last week, I think I may try using frozen cubed butternut squash for recipes like that in the future.
All that is to say that this recipe does not involve peeling any squash, and that I hope the chances that you’ll lose a finger while following it are minimal. This twice-baked version captures all the flavor of my favorite squash, with none of the frustration that I sometimes feel when cooking with it.
I feel like I took the scenic route on that explanation.
Anywho, you’re probably familiar with twice-baked potatoes, but if you’re going to bake any vegetable twice this season, I submit that it should be butternut squash.
Roasted squash is fall comfort food at its finest, and it only gets better with the addition of browned onions and fragrant sage. Not to mention the cheesy ricotta goodness I already prattled on about. I actually used half ricotta and half Greek yogurt in this recipe, just so the spoonfuls of ricotta I ate straight out of the container would be entirely guilt-free. (That’s how that works, right?) You could use all ricotta or all Greek yogurt if you wanted to… but I can’t imagine you’d want to leave out the ricotta. You wouldn’t do that to me, would you?!
Oh, and there’s quite a bit of parmesan, too, just for extra deliciousness. I wasn’t sure parmesan and butternut squash would be a good combo, but I shouldn’t have worried. They are beyond good together. I mean, it’s parmesan. Should I really be surprised?
When it’s all baked up (twice, that is), the cheesy squash mixture is browned on top and irresistibly creamy in the middle. It’s a wonderful savory dish that I can definitely picture on the Thanksgiving table. Take my advice and make about twice as much as you think you’ll need. It goes fast!
And, because I’m now obsessed with ricotta and want to make a million recipes with it: What are your favorite ways to use ricotta? Go!
Finally, if you’re looking for a vegan butternut squash recipe and wish I would shut up about the ricotta, may I recommend this mashed butternut squash with apples, onions, and warm spices? It’s one of my all-time favorite recipes.
- 2 butternut squash, about 2.5 lbs each
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 8 large sage leaves, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage 0%)
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Slice the stems off the butternut squash and cut each squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds and stringy goop. (I find that my ice cream scoop is perfect for this.)
- Place the squash halves cut side down on the lined baking sheet. Roast until the cut side of the squash is tender when pierced with a fork, 35-45 minutes. Remove from oven and turn the cut sides up. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Keep the oven on.
- In the meantime, melt the butter in a non-stick pan or skillet over low heat. Add the onion and salt and saute until browned at the edges, about 15 minutes. Stir in the chopped sage and saute another 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Once the squash has cooled a bit, scoop the insides out into a large bowl. IMPORTANT: You will only need to refill two squash halves. On these two, leave about 1/2 inch border so that the squash halves hold their shape. You can completely scoop out the other two halves and discard the skins.
- With a fork or potato masher, mash the roasted squash. Add the cooked onions and sage, ricotta, Greek yogurt, parmesan, and pepper. Stir to thoroughly combine. Scoop the mixture into the two remaining squash halves and return to the oven until the tops begin to brown, about 20 minutes.
- Serve immediately. Enjoy!