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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

How to prepare butternut squash

Three whole butternut squash with stems on a gray tablecloth. Contains orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

Butternut squash is a favorite fall food of mine. However, I must admit that it’s odd shape and hard surface can sometimes make it frustrating to deal with. Here’s how I handle this rock-hard squash.

First, decide how you are using the squash: mashed or cubed? If it doesn’t have to be cubed, ignore any recipe that says to peel and cube it, as that takes too much work! Skip cutting the squash altogether and simply place the whole washed squash directly in a slow cooker. No water is necessary, but be sure the squash is not too big for the crock. Put on the lid and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. Once cool enough to handle, use a knife to slice in half from stem to blossom end. Scoop out the seeds and use a spoon to scrape out the flesh. It’s never been so easy! Use mashed squash for a butternut squash soup, pasta sauce or pizza sauce.

If needing cubed squash, always start by creating a flat surface by slicing the veggie so it doesn’t roll or shift. To do this, use a sharp chef’s knife to cut off the bottom and top ends. Then, slice it in half crosswise so that you have two squashes stabilized on a cutting board. Use a vegetable peeler to trim off the skin. Cut the two squashes in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. It’s then ready to slice into cubes.

Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce

2-3 lb. butternut squash

3 cloves garlic, unpeeled

1 teaspoon olive oil

½ teaspoon dried sage

½ teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 cup fat-free half and half

1 lb. whole wheat pasta

Shredded Parmesan cheese, if desired

Preheat oven to 400°F. Trim off ends of squash, cut in half from stem to blossom end and scoop out seeds. Place the two halves flesh-down in a glass pan and pour in ¼” of water. Place garlic in aluminum foil and drizzle with oil. Wrap foil around garlic to seal it inside. Roast squash and garlic for 30-40 minutes or until squash is fork tender. Prepare pasta according to package directions. Once squash is cool enough to handle, scrape flesh out of the peel into a blender. Peel the skin off garlic and add to blender. Add seasonings and half and half; blend until creamy. Stir sauce into cooked pasta, warming it if needed; serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, if desired.

Yield: 8 servings


Nutrition Facts (per serving): 290 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 230 milligrams sodium, 60 grams carbohydrate, 10 grams fiber, 11 grams protein


PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenna Smith is a Nutrition and Wellness Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties. Smith uses her experience as a registered dietitian nutritionist to deliver impactful information and cutting-edge programs to Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties and beyond.


This blog post originally appeared in the Pantagraph on September 28, 2022.