This is a delicious, simple meal. The delicately sweet flavor of butternut pairs perfectly with the nutty, herby pesto that tops it. This recipe is inspired by Food52, but with a few changes. The pesto features feta cheese, which gives it a nice sharpness to go with the herb and nutty flavors of the other ingredients. It is so easy to put together, yet it looks beautiful on the plate, which makes this an ideal recipe for autumn dinner parties.

A little of the pesto goes a long way when paired with the squash, so you'll probably have more than you need for this dish. But that's no problem! It's wonderful to crumble over salads, pasta, or even to spread across a crostini or sliced baguette.

Plated caramelized butternut squash with hazelnut-sage pesto

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Total time: 50 minutes

Yields: 4-6 servings

Caramelized Butternut Squash with Hazelnut-Sage Pesto

Ingredients for Hazelnut-Sage Pesto

  • 1/4 cup sage, chopped
  • 4-5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • Salt

Ingredients for Butternut Squash

  • 1 large (or two small) butternut squashes
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon raw cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne, depending on taste

Cooking directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and place a rack in the lowest slot in the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place the butternut squash in the oven as it heats for about 10 minutes. Not too long, but just long enough to soften it slightly and make cutting it easier. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Then cut the squash into 1/2-inch thick slices.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, sugar, salt and cayenne. Add the sliced squash to the oil mixture and toss so that each slice is coated.
  4. Place the slices in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Roast for 10-15 minutes or until they begin to caramelize. Remove the sheet, flip the slices over, and bake them for another 10-15 minutes, or until caramelized. They should have a nice golden edge to both sides.
  5. While the squash is roasting, make the pesto. In a small sauce pan on low heat, gently warm 3 tablespoons of olive oil, sage, and garlic. Heat until the oil just begins to bubble, then pour it in a small bowl while separating out the garlic. Reserve the oil in another small bowl. Return the sauce pan to the stove without washing out the residual oil. Add the hazelnuts and toast them on a low temperature until fragrant. In mini food processor, add the hazelnuts and garlic and pulse until they form a fine crumble. Place the crumble in a large mixing bowl. Add the feta cheese plus the reserved olive oil and stir until combined.
  6. Once the squash is roasted, plate it and sprinkle the pesto over the top. Enjoy!

Plated caramelized butternut squash with hazelnut-sage pesto

Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.

Caramelized Butternut Squash with Hazelnut-Sage Pesto
Paired with a light salad and some steamed vegetables, this side dish becomes a scrumptious entree.