Here is a delicious side dish that is loaded with fall flavors. It’s called Savory Winter Squash Casserole in order to distinguish it from the typically sweet dishes served over the holidays.
I’m not sure what variety of squash I used. It was already cut in half when I bought it at the Farmer’s Market. The lady said it was “calabaza” which means “pumpkin” but seems to encompass any winter squash including butternut. I noticed when I roasted it that the flesh of the squash was stringy, similar to spaghetti squash. Which makes me wonder if I could make noodles if I bought a piece cut the long way. To me, it smelled like pumpkin but tasted kind of mild and sweet like butternut squash. My original plan called for the some raisins, but I forgot to add them. (I used them to make this instead). Rick thought it was plenty sweet without added fruit so it worked out.
The inspiration for this casserole came from Sugar & Spice by Celeste. I made substitutions, of course (I’ve yet to see pecans in Spain…) and was totally satisfied with how the dish turned out. There’s sweetness from the squash, onions and hazelnuts coupled with the savory taste of thyme and grated manchego cheese topped with crunchy bread crumbs made from day old bread. I had to force myself to stop eating it, that’s how good it is.
To roast the squash, cut it in half and scrape out the seed and the fibers, then cut the squash into manageable pieces. Bake in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes or so or until the squash is tender. Remove from oven and when cool enough to handle, scrape the squash into a large bowl. While the squash is roasting you can cook the onions and make the fresh bread crumbs.
Fresh bread crumbs have rapidly become my “go to” topping. It’s just a matter of breaking part of the loaf into smaller pieces and whirling them in a food processor with some olive oil or butter. You can add sugar for a sweet topping or herbs for a savory one.
They crisp up nicely in the oven, too. For the savory winter squash casserole, I used olive oil, parsley and a small amount of manchego cheese for the bread crumbs. Here’s how to make the rest of the casserole.
- 3 - 4 cups roasted winter squash, mashed slightly
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cups freshly made bread crumbs seasoned with olive oil, salt and parsley (Substitute a cup of seasoned bread or cracker crumbs)
- olive oil
- ½ cup chopped hazelnuts
- ¼ cup grated manchego or other hard cheese
- 1 - 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350°F
- Roast the squash as described in the text.
- Make the bread crumbs by pulsing two generous handfuls of torn bread in the food processor with a teaspoon or so of olive oil, dried parsley and a tablespoon of manchego cheese. Add salt and other seasonings to taste.
- Saute the onions and the thyme in a small amount of olive oil until the onions have softened and changed color.
- When ready to bake, combine the squash, onions, hazelnuts and remaining cheese in a large mixing bowl. Season to taste.
- Transfer to a baking dish and top with the bread crumbs.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until the bread crumbs are crunchy and the casserole is bubbly.