Working With What You Have: Shredded Squash

I love buying big beautiful butternut squashes at the farmers’ market, but my eyes are usually bigger than my guest list, and unless I am making a big stew or chili that incorporates the vegetable, I will have sections of it in my fridge for weeks. Even a small, one and a half pound squash can stretch a surprisingly long way, and I always end up with leftovers to throw on top of crostini or beneath a fried egg.

If I want to be sure to be rid of the squash at the end of a meal, I cut it up into cubes and roast it. The pieces crisp up, shrink down, and become an irresistible snack for guests, likely to be plucked up straight from the tray before you have a chance to transfer it to your salad, or pasta. In these cases, the squash always gets finished even if it looked like too much.

A few weeks ago, I had two meals for two planned two nights in a row. The easy solution budget-wise would have been to make one dinner for four and serve the leftovers to the unassuming guest the second night. But that’s really no fun for my stomach. So I picked up a butternut squash and shredded it up. This was labor intensive ( I have a rather dinky grater), but it meant I had a squash topping for two separate meals, without any leftovers.

I sautéed the shredded squash over low heat with a bit of butter, a touch of white wine, half and half, and a healthy addition of finely grated pecorino cheese at the end of the cooking process. The result was a decadent vegetable mixture, fine enough to stuff a ravioli but textured enough to mix into a pasta or risotto and have it stand on its own as a separate ingredient, not part of a sauce. And for my two dinners, I did just that.

The first night, I was joined by my friend Ali, whom I shared many a bowl of cacio e pepe pasta with during our semester abroad in Rome. I doctored the pasta as I would a traditional cacio e pepe, and I also mixed in some of the shredded squash with the hot pasta. The second night, I added the squash to my risotto as it finished cooking–just as Cara did for her French bistro-ish meal. The shredded pieces of squash allowed its sweetness to melt into the rice and complement the smoky pancetta I’d added at the beginning.

Next time I plan on buying an even bigger squash and freezing the shredded mixture for a third dinner many weeks down the line.

From my kitchen, where my elbow hurts from shredding squash, to yours,


**Other uses for Butternut Squash**

If you have half a butternut and don’t feel like shredding it, here are some other ways to get through your squash:


Linguine Cacio e Pepe with Butternut Squash
Makes 2 servings


For the shredded squash:

2 tbsp butter
½ a 1 1/2lb butternut squash, seeded
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup half and half
¼ cup finely grated pecorino

For the pasta:

1/2 lb fresh linguine (or dried)
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup shredded pecorino cheese

In a medium non-stick skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat and sauté the squash, still occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 3-4 minutes. Add the white wine and continue to sauté until the wine has reduced by half. Add the cream and cook gently for an additional few minutes, until the squash has fully softened, but is not falling apart. Fold in the cheese and remove from the heat.

NOTE: this can be done the night before and stored in the fridge. Double the recipe if you plan on making another meal that week, like the risotto below.

Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta until al dente—if using fresh, this will only take a few minutes, if not, follow package directions. Reserve ¼ cup cooking liquid.

In a large bowl, combine the squash mixture, the black pepper, and half of the additional cheese. Add the drained pasta and toss to combine, adding some of the cooking liquid as necessary to create a creamy sauce. Taste for seasoning and add salt as necessary. Garnish with the remaining cheese and fresh parsley for a bit more color.

Butternut Squash Risotto with Pancetta and Pecorino
Makes 2 servings

2oz pancetta, finely chopped
2 shallots, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
¾ cup Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups shredded squash (recipe above)
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp pecorino

Coat a dutch oven or deep sauté pan with olive oil, and cook the pancetta until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the the shallot and garlic and cook until fragrant and beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and continue to cook for another few minutes so the grains are covered in oil and beginning to toast. Add ½ tsp of salt and the wine and cook, stirring, until nearly evaporated, about 1 minute. Return the heat to medium, and add 1 cup of stock, stirring occasionally until the rice has absorbed the liquid.

Turn the heat down to medium-low and continue adding the stock to the pot in ½ cup portions, stirring occasionally until each batch is absorbed before adding more. You don’t need to be constantly stirring, but you also want to make sure that the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan. When the liquids are almost absorbed, add the next ½ cup of stock and repeat. During this time, if the liquids have absorbed, don’t be shy in adding more stock. This is not a precise science, it may end up being more or less than 3 cups total.

In the meantime, if you haven’t made it in advance, follow directions above for the shredded squash.

Once the stock is almost gone, and the risotto has only a slight bite to it, add the squash mixture. Cook for another few minutes, stir in half the parsley, and garnish with the remaining herbs and cheese.

Serve immediately.

  • Colleen

    Have you ever made Ina's roasted butternut squash salad? That is my absolute favorite use for leftover squash (which I, too, tend to have a lot of).

  • KathyCooks

    Though this is one of my strategies (making intentional leftovers), I've never thought of shredded squash as something to keep in the fridge. What a nice idea!

  • Sarah

    love this idea! love how easy and healthy squash is. and I so agree – it's all about knowing what to do with what you have. my aunt just made the most fab gazpacho with leftover green grapes she had. to die for!

  • kate @ melange a trois

    Mmmmm…the risotto looks divine. I love the combination of the sweetness of the butternut squash with the saltiness of the pancetta and pecorino. I often roast cubes of peeled butternut squash and use them for various dishes throughout the week. I will have to try shredding the squash next time.

  • Karen

    looks delicious– although the first time I had butternut squash soup, it was too sweet for me. I would love to try the risotto. Looks amazing.

  • Maddie

    My butternut squash standby involves sautéeing cubes of the stuff with sage — shredding it sounds revolutionary! But now that I've discovered the joys of my Cuisinart's shredding attachment, this recipe is attainable sans elbow pain. Thanks for the great idea!

  • Frankie

    I know it doesn't have much taste, but shredding spaghetti squash is a lot easier and more fun than grating a whole butternut. It just takes more seasoning but it does have a nice crunch with a the soft rice or pasta. But I've never tried mixing it with anything, I admit.

  • Phoebe and Cara, The Quarter-Life Cooks

    Colleen–I have indeed tried that salad and it is to die for! I actually have used an adapted apple cider vinegar for many other salads since I loved Ina's so much.

    Karen–I too am often put off by overly sweet savory foods, especially soups! I promise, the butternut in these recipes has just a hint of sweetness. The pecorino is very nutty and salty, and this helps make these dishes more savory.

    Maddie–I'm so jealous of your big cuisinart!!! But I love my mini prep. Unfort, it doesn't shred very well though.

    Frankie–Spaghetti squash is a great idea to cut down on the work! It would have a different effect on these dishes–retaining its texture more than the butternut and not becoming as creamy when combined with the cheese and butter. But I think the spaghetti squash would taste great with these flavor elements–perhaps not even needing the actual spaghetti!

    Thanks all for your wonderful comments!

Buy Now - In The Small Kitchen