A Patient Food and Butternut Squash Pesto Pizzettas
There’s something about squash—winter squash to put a finer point on it—that soothes me in a way that other foods, even my favorites like pizza and Pleasant Ridge Reserve cheese can’t. I get a little giddy when the Delicatas, my harbingers of autumn that are usually the first of the season to ripen, start appearing at the market. By the time the butternuts and pumpkins arrive a couple weeks later, the leaves are crunching underfoot and I’m holding my coffee with both hands to keep the chill away. And though I’m frightfully aware that winter is just around the corner, I’m seduced by all things fall—the brilliant burning bush outside my front door, fresh sage, roasted chestnuts, the feel of a soft scarf around my neck, my chunky wool cardigan, and my everlasting brown boots that I annually vow to replace and don’t. It’s time to build a fire in the back yard with Greg and while away a Saturday night stoking the embers, sipping bourbon and Cokes, and revising and refining our plans for what we’ll do if we win the lotto.
In the kitchen, squash is my patient companion. A fresh garden tomato cries to be eaten the moment it’s picked, while a butternut squash actually improves with age and will keep for months if stored in a cool, dry environment. Unlike peppers and eggplants, there’s no kitchen race to roast it or pickle it before the tiny freshness window slams shut. The humble acorn squash perched in my window sill says, “No time to roast me and stuff me into ravioli this week? That’s okay; I’ll be right here next week when you’re ready for me.” I breathe a sigh of relief. If only my emails, texts, and voicemails could be so accommodating.
Butternut Squash Pesto Pizzettas
Adapted from Eric Gower’s recipe in The Breakaway Cook. My girlfriend Lauren turned me on to these, and Gower’s inspired cookbook, when she made them for my birthday a few years ago. Since then they’ve become my favorite fall party food. The variations are endless–goat cheese, pistachios, walnuts, sage pesto, feta, and more.
1 medium butternut squash, peeled (You only need the neck. Reserve the seed-filled portion for another use.)
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing
1/4 cup pesto
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Slice the squash neck into 1/2-inch thick wheels (a medium-sized squash will yield 10-14 wheels). Cut the wheels into any shape that pleases you. (Keep the wheels whole if serving as a starter course. Cut into smaller bites for hors d’oeuvres.) Place on an oiled baking sheet or Silpat. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until softened but not mushy.
- While the squash is baking, thin the pesto with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Spoon the pesto on the warm squash, sprinkle with pine nuts, and serve. (The squash can be roasted ahead of time and reheated just before serving.)
Makes 50-60 bite-sized hors d’oeuvres.