Nuts for butternut squash? 14 cozy recipes for fall and the holidays

Butternut squash is in season and it's perfect for soups, pastas and side dishes to make for any fall occasion.
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By Erica Chayes Wida

When it comes to produce, butternut squash is one of autumn's tastiest offerings.

The popular vegetable has a smooth texture, is full of sweet flavor and very versatile for cooking. Don't let the thought of cutting through the squash's thick skin scare you. Whether it's roasted, sautéed, mashed or puréed, this seasonal staple is surprisingly easy to make.

To inspire home cooks to utilize this veggie in many wonderful ways, here are some of TODAY Food's favorite recipes.

Appetizers

Making butternut squash soup may sound difficult, but it's really quite easy. Simply sauté the squash with a handful of other vegetables, add some broth and simmer. Blend the mixture into a puree, add some cream and voilà! For a fragrant twist, serve this classic fall soup with crispy sage leaves.

Butternut Squash Soup

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This soup skirts the line between sweet and savory in the most perfect way. Traditional dessert ingredients like honey, apples and vanilla bean play off the natural sweetness of the squash, while the aromatic onions and vegetable stock keep it grounded in a savory flavor profile. Plus, it's served in a roasted pumpkin, which will wow every guest.

Alejandra Ramos' variation on the typically sweeter soup brings some smoky spice with chipotle. It's still a good fit for those who can't handle a high spice level, as Ramos adds maple syrup to tame the flame.

Butternut Bruschetta

Mix things up this Thanksgiving by smearing crostini with sweet roasted butternut squash that's been mashed with caramelized onions and seasoned with crushed red pepper. There's some heat to this decadent mash, but a drizzle of tangy balsamic vinegar and a bit of refreshing mint help to balance out the spicy appetizer.

Anyone who loves pizza will be excited to dig into this tasty flatbread as a Thanksgiving appetizer. Made with sweet potato, red bell pepper and butternut squash, it's a colorful celebration of the best of fall's harvest.

Pair roasted butternut squash with creamy ricotta and caramelized leeks and serve the combination on crusty toast. Drizzled with thick, balsamic glaze for a hint of tartness, you'll be left with a satisfyingly rich appetizer that will certainly please all.

Start off the fall feast with a clean arugula salad made with squash, chickpeas, hazelnuts and cranberries all tossed in a maple, dijon and shallot vinaigrette.

Sides

The key to the multi-layered flavor of this butternut squash risotto is using one ingredient in two ways. Simply saute one half of a butternut squash and purée the other. The result is a super creamy risotto with deliciously complex flavors that is the perfect accompaniment to any meal.

Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis uses only five simple ingredients for this dish that the whole family will love — visiting relatives and all! Combine rigatoni, Italian sausage, cubed butternut squash, arugula and lots of Parmesan cheese. The flavors flow well with other Thanksgiving dishes like spicier stuffings and roasted sweet potatoes.

Sometimes grandma just knows best! Chef Ryan Scott likes to serve his grandmother's sweet tea-brined fried chicken on top of a butternut squash puree. Yes, turkey is more traditional for Thanksgiving, but either bird works with this creamy side dish that's both sweet and savory.

"I love the combo of pecans and Parmesan together," cookbook author and TV personality Daphne Oz told TODAY Food. "It gives a wonderfully rich, textured crispness to the soft roasted squash without using bread." Oz's butternut squash casserole recipe is perfect for a Thanksgiving side dish and works equally well as a main course for vegetarians.

Maple Glazed Hasselback Butternut Squash

This glazed and roasted squash is tasty and filling enough to stand alone as a vegetarian entrée, or serve it alongside your favorite protein during your next dinner party. The Hasselback technique requires a little bit of finicky prep work, but I promise the results are totally worth it.

Sweet potato fries, meet your match. Swapping butternut squash makes these fries more nutritious and flavorful. The savory, citrusy, lemon-Parmesan aioli pairs perfectly with the natural sweetness of the crispy squash.

Vegan Baked Butternut Squash Mac 'n' Cheese

Serving a crowd that loves macaroni and cheese as much as Craig Melvin but still need to accommodate some vegans? Everyone will love this creamy dish made with noodles, bread crumbs and a "cheesy" butternut squash sauce.