Master this delicious winter vegetable once and for all.

 

Butternut squash is one of my favorite cold weather vegetables, and roasting is one of the best ways to prepare it because it amplifies the natural sweetness of the squash. Tender cubes of roasted, caramelized squash are a comforting, go-with-anything vegetable side, and can be made with just three pantry staples: oil, salt, and pepper. Here’s how to do it:

Peel it (or don’t)

The only tricky thing about cooking butternut squash is cutting it, because of its curvy shape and thick skin. I like to strip off the skin with a vegetable peeler, then cut off the top and bottom of the squash with a sharp chef’s knife. To make this step easier, choose a squash with a long, straight neck—they are much easier to peel and slice. If you’re making mashed or pureed roasted butternut squash, you can skip this step and leave the peel on the squash.

Cube it (or don’t)

Once your squash is peeled, use the knife to cut it into two parts: the neck, and the round bottom. Once you slice the neck lengthwise into two halves, it is easy to cut into cubes or chunks. Try to make them as uniform in size as possible so they will roast evenly. Then scoop out and discard the seeds from the bottom of the squash and cut the flesh into cubes or chunks as well. If you’re making mashed butternut squash, carefully slice the squash lengthwise to make two halves and scoop out the seeds.

Roast it

While you’re chopping, preheat the oven to 400˚F. Place the cubed squash on a sheet pan. Drizzle the squash with olive oil and use your hands to toss the pieces so they are completely coated with oil. Season generously with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper and toss again. Arrange the squash in a single layer and roast in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until all of the pieces are tender. If you’re making mashed butternut squash, coat the flesh side of the two halves evenly with oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast cut-side down on a sheet pan at 400˚F for an hour. The squash is done when you can easily insert and remove a paring knife into the skin side of the squash.