Simple Sides: Roasted Butternut Squash with Brown Butter & Sage

Finished side dish

In the spring of 2002, my parents and I went to visit my sister in Italy where she had been studying abroad for the past year.  Already a food obsessed teenager, I was thrilled at the prospect of exploring the gastronomic mecca that is Italy.  My journals from the trip are filled with culinary excursions to tiny sandwich shops where I first discovered bresaola, fruit stands with owners who would scold me for trying to pick up fat clusters of waxy grapes, and daily trips to the gelateria to sample every flavor combination possible (and where I discovered my love for fior di latte).  In my favorite portion of our vacation, the four of us diligently followed our Rick Steves guide up to Lake Como, where we settled into the quiet cobblestone streets of Varenna for some rest and relaxation over the Easter holiday.

Simple Sides: Roasted Butternut Squash with Brown Butter & Sage
It was at the Albergo Milano in Varenna that I first tried the beautiful butternut squash mezzaluna pasta with brown butter and sage.  I remember that pasta vividly and how such a simple combination- pasta, squash, butter, sage- could result in such a luxurious dish.  Since then, roasting butternut squash and tossing with some brown butter and a few sprigs of sage from the garden has become a household staple.
While the weather in San Francisco has been sunny and 65°F,  the rest of the country is bundled up for winter, so I thought it might be a good time to bring out this simple side dish.  Serve with roast chicken, and a peppery arugula salad with pine nuts and pecorino romano or simply toss with some pasta.  If you have leftovers, throw it in a blender with some chicken broth and sauteed onions and you have soup for the next day (serve with a dollop of creme fraiche or a drizzle of heavy cream).

Roasted Butternut Squash with Brown Butter & Sage (from Kitchen Explorers)

1 butternut squash
1 1/2 Tbls. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper
2 Tbls. butter
6-10 sprigs of fresh sage

Preheat the oven to 450°F.  Using a sharp knife, cut both ends off the squash and peel the skin off using a vegetable peeler or knife. Cut the squash in half vertically, scoop out the seeds and pith with a spoon, and cut into 1/2 inch slices ( I’ve also done 1 inch cubes, which works just fine).  Toss in a ziplock bag with the olive oil to evenly coat the slices (or just toss in a bowl). Place the slices on a parchment lined baking sheet and season with salt and pepper.  Bake the squash for 20 minutes or until fork tender.

While the squash is baking, chop up the sage and set aside. Melt 2 Tbls. of butter in a small saute pan over medium-high heat.  The butter will change from pale yellow to light amber and you must NOT leave the pan unattended.  The brown butter will start to smell nutty and you can reduce the heat to medium and toss in the sage.  When the leaves turn dark green and become very crispy, you can remove the pan from heat.  Line the roasted squash on a serving dish and pour the brown butter sage sauce over and serve.

Simple Sides: Roasted Butternut Squash with Brown Butter & Sage

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