Harvest Gold: Sweet, Sauteed Butternut Squash and Yam with Warm Spices…

Autumn nights are growing colder now; wood smoke curling from chimney-tops on still evenings. And although still vibrant, the forest is slowly shifting from red and orange to burnished bronze and rust. On walks along woodland paths, fallen leaves carpet the floor, and my feet kick up a familiar, October-crunch. Radiant as stained glass, the cathedral-like forest canopy glows in late afternoon light; at once beautiful and melancholy, this bittersweet season. But we’ve had a good, long run in the garden this year; light frosts barely touching the potager in mid-October. And with the cooler temperatures and early darkness, I find myself craving traditional, slow-roasted comfort foods: pumpkin, squash and root vegetables…

This afternoon I filled a pan with butternut squash and yams, and left it roasting in the oven while I wandered around the forest; Oli tearing a wild trail ahead of me. Upon our return an hour or so later, the sweet, warm scent of roasting squash welcomed us back into the house. Delicious. And now —with the temperature dropping and sky streaked with magenta and dusty plum— I am about to settle down for a cozy meal.

Autumn foliage reflected in a pool of rain water

Zucca disfatta is a roasted, hand-mashed and sauteed, sweet squash dish. Enjoyed in northern Italy and elsewhere in the cool, mountainous regions of Europe, this recipe is is traditionally served on holidays – but there is no need to reserve it for special occasions. Easy to prepare, this warm and fragrant dish makes a wonderful accompaniment to other autumn favorites (including roast chicken, turkey and pork, for meat-eaters). The squash and yams can be roasted and mashed ahead of time, and the sweet flavor also makes delicious filling for ravioli (great use for leftovers!).  I have tried many variations on this simple recipe, but the basic directions below (from Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s The Splendid Table) are a good place to start if you have never tried this dish before.

Zucca Disfatta

Ingredients (Serves 8 as a side dish):

2.5-3         Pounds butternut squash

1                 Pound yams

3                 Tablespoons shredded lemon and orange zest

1                 Large onion, minced (I use Spanish onion)

3                 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4                 Cups water

1/4             Teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil. Slice the squash in half vertically, remove the seeds and lay the pieces face down in the roasting pan. Prick the yams with a fork and settle in the pan beside the squash. Send them into the oven for about an hour, or until soft when pricked with a fork. Remove to cool. Peel vegetables and mash by hand in a large bowl. Set aside (may be done ahead of time).

In a small saucepan, heat the water to a boil and blanch the citrus zest for approximately 3 minutes. Drain in mesh colander and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the minced onion and cook for approximately 15 minutes, until golden. Remove from heat and add to the squash/yam mash. Mix in the cinnamon and citrus zest. Turn the mixture into the skillet and cook slowly, stirring constantly, on medium-low for approximately 15 minutes or until water is evaporated. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and serve hot.

This dish is excellent as a side with roast chicken or turkey, and many other meats. It can also be used as a delicious filling for homemade ravioli.

Warm, fragrant and delicious – Sweet Squash

Backlit Beech Leaves Against the October Sky


You may also enjoy this post and recipe for Butternut Squash Soup – Click Here


Article and photographs â“’ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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8 Replies to “Harvest Gold: Sweet, Sauteed Butternut Squash and Yam with Warm Spices…”

  1. Deb

    Butternut squash is my favorite vegetable, and autumn is my favorite time of the year. I can’t wait to try this recipe – thank you for the recipe and the musings!

  2. Lynda S

    Butternut squash was probably the most successful vegetable I grew this summer… or any summer for that matter. Good thing I love them so much! Thanks for sharing your recipe and for the lovely beach tree photo!

  3. Michaela

    Isn’t it just the quintessential autumn-kitchen fragrance? Even more than apples, I associate the scent of roasting butternut squash with harvest meals and cozy, family gatherings…
    You are most welcome Deb. Thank you for making the time to comment.
    xo Michaela

  4. Michaela

    @ Lynda – Super rewarding crop, isn’t it? Just plunk the seed into hills in the springtime and collect the sweet reward in autumn. I love finding them here and there, sprawled out vines with fruit in the most surprising places. It’s a delicious scavenger hunt! ;) And the beech… they are just stunning right now against the blue sky! xo M

  5. Donna

    Your photos are absolutely BEAUTIFUL! The take your breath away beautiful… I’m sure the recipe is delish too.

  6. Julie

    This sounds great, I found one of the pumkins going south maybe it needs to end up in the oven today , I have a tad bit of sore throat so the rock wall has to wait a bit. Thank-you for all your great ideas…

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