Everyone loves a butternut squash—and why wouldn’t they? Thanks to the word “butter,” even the name sounds enticing. They are, however, a bit of a pain in the butt(ernut). They’re hard to chop, hard to peel, and require at least 40 minutes of oven time to soften after all of that peeling and chopping.
Delicata squash is a very different experience, though. It’s easy to chop, doesn’t need to be peeled, and can be sautéed into submission in about 15 minutes, depending on how thinly you slice it. It’s so accommodating that you can eat it for breakfast. (I think “breakfast squash” should be “a thing.”)
Even better, it has a flavor that is very similar, if not identical, to the popular butternut. Some—like Modern Farmer—even refer to it as the “sweet potato squash” for “its brown sugar flavor…like a cross between fresh corn and pumpkin pie.” Doesn’t that sound dreamy?
There are three primary ways I like to cook delicata squash on busy evenings. It’s technically a summer squash because of when it’s planted, but I’ve just started to harvest the little stripey guys from my garden, which means you should be able to find them in your local grocery store with ease. Look for unblemished squashed with firm, smooth skin.
The quickest, easiest way to prepare the delicata squash is to rinse it, halve it vertically, scoop out the seeds, and slice it into thin half-rings. Season with salt and pepper, melt your favorite fat in a pan, and cooke over medium-high heat until the squash is soft and browned. Turn off the heat and finish with finely grated parmesan cheese.
Prepare the squash as described above, but keep the half-moon shapes a little thicker—about 1/4-inch. Toss with olive or vegetable oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast at 350℉ for 25-30 minutes until the squash starts to soften and the skin puckers. Eat as a side, or toss with pasta, rice, or some sort of hearty autumn salad.
When sliced (vertically) and scooped, the delicata takes on the form of a little boat, perfect for stuffing with grains, meat, and/or cheese. Pre-roast the squash boats at 425℉ until they are softened and charred on the edges, about 30 minutes, remove from the oven and stuff with your delicious stuff, then return them to the oven for a final 10 minutes to melt any cheese and meld the ingredients into one complete bite.