I’ve been making this dish for about a million years. Maybe a million and one. Even in the days when I didn’t really cook, living in Manhattan or in my teeny-tiny, 350-square-foot apartment in Boston’s North End, I would whip this up when Fall arrived, as a potluck dinner contribution or for a family Thanksgiving. I’m not quite sure why it’s never made it to these (hallowed) pages: maybe because I’ve been making it so long, it has ceased to feel like a “recipe.” But, it surely is a recipe, and a brilliant one at that (originally from Gourmet, natch.)
Over the course of the last million-and-one years, I’ve tried this every which way but loose: more or less squash, more or less bell pepper, with green, orange, or yellow peppers, with chiles, dried or fresh, with different herbs, with dried herbs, with butter or bacon grease, with meltier cheeses, without cheese, with a long, slow roast, with a high-heat short roast, with a broiler finish. The recipe below represents the pinnacle of roasted winter squash & bell pepper love: a dish that is truly greater than the sum of its parts.
Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Some winter squash, bell pepper; a little garlic, a few herbs. Bind it all together with some olive oil & cheese and let the oven do its magic. And it is that simple: peeling the squash is the most difficult thing in this very straight-forward recipe. Well, that and waiting the hour or so for it to be done. But this is one of those deceptively simple recipes that rises above the ordinary to the extraordinary and I’m still not sure how or why. Any of the modifications that I’ve made in the past make the recipe distinctly less than wonderful. And while I’ve made some modifications to the relative proportions in the original recipe, all of the ingredients remain, and indeed, seem imperative to produce the magic elixir that is “our roasted butternut squash.”
This one is worth trying. If a million (+1!) years of practise won’t convince you, I don’t know what will.
Adapted from Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Casserole, Gourmet, September 1995 (via Epicurious)
- one 2 and 1/2 to 3-lb butternut squash (or other winter squash), peeled, seeded and diced to 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 large red bell peppers (about 1 lb), stemmed, seeded, and diced to 1/2-inch
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tbsp chopped parsley
- 4 – 5 stalks rosemary leaves, finely chopped (about 1 tbsp)
- salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste (I use about 1/2 tsp each)
- 3 – 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup (2 oz) freshly grated hard cheese, such as parmesan or Sprout Creek Ouray
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (375 degrees F convection).
- In a large bowl, combine squash, bell pepper, garlic, parsley, rosemary, salt & pepper. Toss to mix. Drizzle in olive oil, tossing as you go, until vegetables are all lightly coated. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet or large casserole dish. Sprinkle half of the cheese evenly over the top of the vegetables.
- Roast in the preheated oven, stirring 2 or 3 times, until squash is tender and beginning to brown at the edges, about 60 – 75 minutes (45 – 60 minutes, convection). Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and return to the oven for 5 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and begun to brown. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Serves 8 – 10 as a side.
- I like this dish crispy on the edges: some would say burnt. I think it is best this way: slightly crispy on the outside, soft & tender on the inside, a nice dose of caramelized flavor. But the original recipe did not specify any browing, like most roasted winter squash. Feel free to stop cooking when it looks/tastes good to you.
- In winter, I make this with chopped, frozen red bell peppers (about 2 cups). Rinse and let thaw before cooking. I’ve tried this with green bell peppers, but it’s just not as good. The more astringent flavor of the green bells doesn’t blend well with the squash & cheese.
- I’m rarely a fan of dried rosemary, but I do use it sometimes in spice rubs; however, I feel that fresh rosemary is critical here. The rosemary flavor is key in tying this dish together; if you simply can’t source fresh rosemary, try another pungent fresh herb like oregano, thyme or marjoram.
- This makes a great, slightly different, Thanksgiving or Christmas dish. Easy to prepare in advance and pop in the oven when you need it, reheats well, and is not as heavy as a lot of traditional winter sides.
- This dish can be 100% local by replacing olive oil with bacon grease or clarified butter (but, I’ll admit, I like it best with olive oil).
Refirgerated for up to 1 week.
Fall through winter.