Abundant this time of year, squash comes in a multitude of varieties that are easy to prepare and a great addition to your family’s table.
This time of year, the quirky and wide-ranging members of the squash family are everywhere, just waiting for you to dig in and enjoy the many flavorful dishes that you can prepare with them.
Or that you can buy: Panera Bread® fell so in love with this nutritious ingredient that you’ll find two squash items on menu this fall. Joining the seasonal Vegetarian Autumn Squash Soup, which is making its return this fall, is Butternut Squash Ravioli. “This ravioli is really something special,” says chef and Panera food team member Mark McDonough. The sage-and-egg-striped pasta—which is filled with a mixture of select ingredients, including butternut squash, Parmesan, butter, dark brown sugar, and crushed amaretti cookies—is tossed in a leek-and-garlic cream sauce, then garnished with arugula and frizzled onions.
Meanwhile, if you’ve piled some squash in your grocery cart you need not worry about coming up with delicious ideas to help you take advantage of the season’s bounty. We asked Mark to share a few quick-hit serving ideas from a to z—acorn squash to zucchini.
Acorn squash: A winter squash shaped like—you guessed it—an acorn, this variety has a sweet, yellow-orange flesh. An easy serving idea: Stuff baked or roasted squash halves with rice or whole grains mixed with diced apples, raisins, and cranberries.
Butternut squash: This winter squash has a sweet, nutty taste similar to pumpkin. “One of my favorite dinner ideas is to make a butternut squash pizza,” says Mark, who tops the dough with roasted squash and goat cheese. “It’s also a great substitute for mashed potatoes. Puree roasted butternut squash, add maple syrup for a little sweetness, and season with artisan salt.”
Crookneck squash: Yellow crookneck squash is available year-round (though it peaks in late spring/early summer) and has a mild flavor. Grill it and serve it as a side dish, or add it to primavera sauce or minestrone soup.
Delicata: A winter squash with dark green stripes on a yellow background, this squash is similar to crookneck and zucchini with its mild, sweet flavor. Delicata can be cored and stuffed with a meat filling, grilled, baked, sautéed, or added to soups and stews.
Spaghetti squash: This delicious variety is great to use as a substitute for pasta. Pierce the rind with a sharp knife and bake it whole. When tender, slice it in half and use a fork to pull the long, thin strands from the center. Top with your favorite sauce.
Sugar pumpkin: Don’t be intimidated by this autumn favorite! Preparing fresh pumpkin is easy, Mark says. Prep it as you would acorn or butternut squash. Often no more than two to four pounds, sugar pumpkins are sweet, and their flesh is ideal for adding to pies and other baked goods. “For something savory, add chunks of sugar pumpkin to beef or pork stew,” suggests Mark.
Zucchini: Mild-flavored and delicate, this long green summer squash is amazingly versatile. Slice it, dice it, cut it into ribbons, top it with meat sauce, throw it on the grill, bake it into a frittata, mix it into quick breads and muffins—Mark has no shortage of ideas for this versatile favorite.