One of my favorite vegetables is butternut squash. It is a versatile vegetable capable of being made in a variety of ways but my favorite is roasted butternut squash (with a close second butternut squash soup).
I stumbled on a version of this recipe a while back and have been making my version regularly ever since. But it dawned on me that I never posted this recipe so I will now. There are only a few ingredients in this recipe but they compliment the squash so perfectly and give a gentle sweetness to its flavor.
So let’s talk cinnamon roasted butternut squash…
Lesson Learned 1 – The size of the squash pieces matters: If you cut the squash too large it will remain hard. Conversely if you cut it too small it will turn into mush. For this particular recipe you want to cut your squash into 3/4 – 1 inch thick pieces. I recommend that you cook the squash at 375 for 30-35 minutes. Cutting the squash into those sized chunks results in the pieces being cooked through without being overly mushy and with a nice caramelization on the outside. Don’t get worried if all your pieces are not exactly the same size. Make them close enough in size as you possibly can.
Lesson Learned 2 – Only use coconut oil in this recipe: If you use olive oil you simply will not get the same flavor. The coconut oil renders a subtle sweetness that, along with the cinnamon, makes the squash taste so good. Now, can you use olive oil if you don’t have coconut oil – of course you can. But I wouldn’t recommend using cinnamon with olive oil. I don’t think the flavors would compliment each other as much.
I’ve been roasting squash for years and my go-to recipe was using a garlic flavored olive oil with some dried thyme – and that’s a great combination as well. But I’ve found when I use coconut it not only enhances the flavor but the squash roasts more evenly, if that makes any sense. When I roasted the squash with olive oil sometimes I would get pieces that did not cook through and were somewhat hard even though the only major change was the oil I used. That never happens with coconut oil. Funny, isn’t it?
Lesson Learned 3 – Be careful how much cinnamon you add: In this recipe it is important for the oil and cinnamon to balance each other out in order to get the correct flavor and sweetness. For that to happen the correct proportions need to be used.
Cinnamon on its own without the benefit of sugar can be quite pungent and not very good tasting. Think about it, when do you ever see cinnamon used without some sort of sweetener? I wouldn’t add any more than a teaspoonful in order the get the correct mixture of both the oil and the cinnamon. If done correctly the combination is heavenly. If not, you’ll wind up throwing the squash out.
Lesson Learned 4 – Don’t crowd the pieces of squash when roasting them: Did you ever see the movie “Julie and Julia” about a woman from New York who blogged about cooking her way through Julia Childs’ cookbook? There is a scene in the movie where Amy Grant, who plays Julie, is cooking mushrooms on the stove and says that Julia noted in her book not to crowd the mushrooms – they won’t brown. Well the same thing applies to the squash. You want the squash to roast so you need to give the pieces room. If you don’t they’ll steam instead of roast and you won’t get the benefit of the wonderful caramelization that so enhances the flavor of the squash.
There could not be a recipe any simpler than this that produces such a flavorful, elegant side dish. I make this at least once a week now and can guarantee that you will make it often once you try it. Enjoy!
Cinnamon Roasted Butternut Squash...
3 cups butternut squash cut into 3/4 – 1 inch pieces
1 Tbs. coconut oil, melted
1 tsp. cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover a 9x 13 pan with foil. Set aside.
In a medium sized bowl combine the squash, coconut oil and cinnamon. Combine until all pieces are thoroughly coated.
Transfer the squash to the prepared pan making sure the pieces are not crowded in the pan. Salt and pepper to taste. (I’d go easy on both – you could always add more when you serve).
Roast for 30-35 minutes turning over the pieces of squash at the half way point. Serve.