It’s back! Butternut, acorn, spaghetti—all of the popular varieties of fall squash are back in stores and waiting to be roasted. But how do you cook all of these varieties? And more importantly, how do you cook them without slicing off a finger first? Here’s the scoop!
How to Roast Butternut Squash
True to its name, butternut squash has a slightly nutty flavor with a buttery texture. It’s most similar to a sweet potato in taste, and it pairs nicely with fall flavors and seasonal ingredients like cinnamon, dried cranberries, pomegranate seeds, apples, and pecans. It also pairs nicely with savory additions such as rosemary, thyme, and cayenne pepper.
Ready for the secret to roasting butternut squash? Roast it whole! While cutting it in half will reduce the baking time slightly, I find that it’s not worth the struggle—butternut squash are really hard to slice, even with a sharp knife.
Instead, you’ll first poke holes in the whole squash with a fork, which will help the squash release steam. Then you’ll place it on a baking sheet, and roast it whole. This takes approximately 60–80 minutes at 375°F, depending on the size of the squash. Mine is approximately 8 inches tall and 3 inches wide, and it took 75 minutes. You’ll notice that the squash will be very soft to the touch all over and the skin will be wrinkled when it’s done roasting. That’s when you know the squash is cooked fully. I find that by roasting the squash whole, it stays more moist because it effectively steams inside itself.
Then, you’ll slice it in half (which will be SO much easier than slicing it before roasting), remove the seeds with a spoon, and use as you’d like, whether that’s puréeing or cutting into cubes.
How to Roast Acorn Squash
Acorn squash also has a sweet and nutty flavor, though its texture isn’t as buttery as butternut squash. Instead, the texture is a bit more grainy. Its shape, with a big whole in the center, makes it ideal for turning it into a bowl to hold other ingredients. A popular sweet variation includes filling a halved squash with a pat of butter and a spoonful of brown sugar (yum—see photo below). You could also stuff it like a stuffed pepper, and fill it with ground meat, sausage, rice, and vegetables.
Acorn squash are the hardest squash to cut when raw, in my opinion. Thanks to its round-ish shape, there’s no solid base to place it on! So I also roast it whole. Poke holes in it with a fork, place on a baking sheet, and bake for 60–70 minutes at 375°F. This squash was approximately 5 inches tall and 5 inches wide, and took 65 minutes to roast. The acorn squash is cooked when it’s very soft to the touch. Roasting it whole yields a much moister squash than slicing it in half first.
How to Roast Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti squash has gained popularity recently as a replacement for, well, spaghetti. Unfortunately it tastes nothing like the starchy, carb-y deliciousness that is pasta, but it’s tasty in its own right. Spaghetti squash is quite bland, and it takes on the flavor of whatever you serve with it. It’s not sweet, and it slightly resembles cauliflower in taste. You’ll want to add something flavorful to this squash, because it’ll take on the taste of whatever you add.
One idea is to add is butter, parmesan, and cracked black pepper to make a noodle-less version of cacio e pepe. That is quite delicious. I used it in this Vegetarian Spaghetti Squash Lasagna as a replacement for pasta. The lasagna is so packed with flavor that I didn’t even miss the pasta.
Spaghetti squash is also very difficult to cut when raw due to its round shape. Therefore, (surprise!) I also roast it whole. Poke holes with a fork, place on a baking sheet, and roast for 50–70 minutes at 375°F, depending on its size. This squash was 8 inches long and 6 inches wide, and I baked it for 65 minutes, at which point it was very soft to the touch. Once its fully cooked, halve the squash and scoop out the seeds. Then use a fork to scrape the strands of squash out of the skin, positioning your fork so you are scraping it vertically down the length of the squash. You’ll be greeted with spaghetti-like strands.
How to Roast Delicata Squash
I saved my favorite for last. Delicata squash is slightly harder to find that the other squash varieties. Its season is shorter, but it is very well worth picking up when you see it. The taste is similar to a sweet potato, and also buttery. It smells like a combination of french fries and popcorn when baking, and you get hints of each when eating it. Seriously! Try this squash.
This is the only squash that I don’t roast whole. The skin on delicata squash is thin enough to eat, and so I do. Cutting this squash is about as difficult as cutting a potato (read: not difficult). I slice off each end, stand it on one flat end, and slice it in half vertically. Then I scrape out the seeds, and then slice it into ¼ inch half moons. I toss the half moons with olive oil and sea salt, and then roast at 400°F in a single layer on a baking sheet until the bottoms are crispy, about 25–30 minutes.