Recipe: Delicata Squash Stuffed with Orzo in a Sage Brown Butter Sauce

Delicata Squash Stuffed with Orzo in a Sage Brown Butter Sauce
Delicata Squash Stuffed with Orzo in a Sage Brown Butter Sauce

This is the vegetarian entree I brought to our family Thanksgiving celebration at Sarina’s folks’ house. It was based on an early version of an entree that my friend Kit was testing at Cafe Flora. The first time I had a bite of it, it just said “Thanksgiving” to me, with the warm flavors of squash and brown butter. Kit’s final dish ended up with an intensely flavored tomato sauce with lots of orange zest, which is also fantastic. I chose to do this one with sage, pumpkin seeds, and dried cranberries to maximize the late autumnal flavors.

The recipe below calls for delicata squash, which is really nice to work with because it is relatively small and the peel is delicate and edible (thus the name). One half of a squash is a perfect entree size, or one quarter would be a good side dish. If you can’t find delicata, you could use acorn or any other winter squash.

Full disclosure: I made this by guesstimating amounts and without writing anything down as I went, and I did 16 portions, so the recipe below isn’t precise. But it should be close enough that you can fine tune it to your own preference. You can do most of this recipe a day or two ahead and just heat and garnish when you are ready to serve them. Don’t be put off because the recipe has 12 steps, it actually goes together pretty quick.

Delicata Squash Stuffed with Orzo in a Sage Brown Butter Sauce
Serves 4 as an entree
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Vegetarian, vegan if you use olive oil instead of the brown butter, gluten-free if you omit the breadcrumbs and substitute a gluten-free pasta or other gluten-free grain for the orzo

  • 2 delicata squash
  • 8 tablespoons (one stick) unsalted butter
  • 3 leaves fresh sage
  • 6 ounces orzo pasta
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup pepitas (green, hulled pumpkin seeds – or substitute chopped almonds)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, halved
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (preferably homemade; not panko)
  • Handful of fresh pomegranate seeds
  • Italian parsley
  1. Carefully halve the squash, remove the seeds (a tablespoon or ice cream scoop works well), rub with oil and roast in the oven at 375 degrees until thoroughly tender. When they come out, rub the inside with a little butter.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and allow it to keep cooking until it develops a nutty / caramel aroma and light brown color, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Taste (carefully), it should have a caramel flavor as well. If not, you haven’t cooked it long enough. While the butter is still hot, tear the sage leaves and add them in, allowing them to steep for awhile.
  3. Boil the orzo according to package directions, being sure to leave it al dente, then drain. Strain the brown butter, add the lemon juice, and toss with the orzo. You may not need all of the butter. If you have some left, try it on popcorn or brussel sprouts.
  4. Toast the pepitas in a skillet, toaster oven, or oven until slightly browned and smelling good. Add the cranberries and pepitas to the orzo Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Mound the orzo into the squash. At this point you can refrigerate them for later use, or serve immediately.
  6. To serve, sprinkle on a good layer of breadcrumbs and heat in oven. If reheating from cold, start covered with tinfoil and remove for the last few minutes. Garnish with the parsley and pomegranate seeds, a good finishing salt (such as Maldon (aka the world’s greatest salt)), and a grind of black pepper.

Note: an even better way to do this ahead would be to make the orzo mixture without the pepitas, and wait to add them and fill the squash just before heating. That way the pepitas will retain their crunch.


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Posted by Michael Natkin on Friday, November 23rd, 2007 in Main Courses, Recipes, Vegan or Modifiable.

19 Responses to “Recipe: Delicata Squash Stuffed with Orzo in a Sage Brown Butter Sauce”

  1. Reply
    November 26, 2007 at 8:24 am #

    This looks fabulous and so festive! I have a ton of couscous I need to use up, do you think this could work as a substitute for the orzo?

  2. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    November 26, 2007 at 1:59 pm #

    For sure! See this post for a tip on how to make the couscous come out fluffy, not heavy.

  3. Reply
    November 27, 2007 at 4:26 pm #

    This looks fantastic! I am going to try it this weekend. What a clever use of orzo.


  4. Reply
    Susan Chan
    November 11, 2009 at 10:14 pm #

    Hi Michael

    Instead of delicata squash which I wont be able to get in Thailand, is it possible to substitute pumpkin instead?? I would love to try this receipe for thanksgiving.


  5. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    November 11, 2009 at 10:21 pm #

    Absolutely, I think it would be great with pumpkin! You'll just need to adjust the cooking time to get it tender.

  6. Reply
    November 18, 2009 at 10:44 am #

    Actually to make this completely gluten-free you’d need to use something other than orzo, since that’s generally a pasta made with wheat flour. You can probably Quinoa for the orzo – that would also up your protein count.

    Otherwise, this sounds delicious and I might make it this weekend. Thanks for posting this recipe!

  7. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    November 18, 2009 at 10:59 am #

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    You are absolutely right… I must have been completely out of it when I wrote that, as of course orzo is normally made from wheat. I've updated the comment at the beginning of the recipe to indicate what changes would be needed. Thanks for catching that.

  8. Reply
    November 24, 2009 at 12:18 pm #

    sounds great-i needed something like this.

  9. Reply
    April 24, 2010 at 5:14 pm #

    I bet this would go over at our Thanksgiving a lot better than the tofu turkey the vegetarians brought last year.

  10. Reply
    September 24, 2010 at 9:28 am #

    It’s not thanksgiving, but it was the first day of Autumn, and the local farmers’ market had delicata, and I had sage and parsley in the garden, and most of the other ingredients in the pantry, so I tried this yesterday. Hint for others: cooking my delicatas took about 20 min at 375. Placing them cut-side-down on a teflon cookie sheet gave a nice browned surface to the cut edges.

    I didn’t have enough dried cranberries, and my pomegranate was not very fresh, and without the proper balance of these flavors, the dish was disappointing. Not BAD by any means, just not as GOOD as it had sounded at first. So while Michael may have approximated the amounts, I recommend that you don’t vary his amounts by more than about 30%. Also, everyone in my household requested that I cut back on the breadcrumbs next time.

    On the other hand, the meal-in-one nature of the dish provided a nice opportunity for silly plating: I put one half-squash at the side of a 10″ white plate, and opposite it, for balance, one “segment” of mandarin orange. A case of “et juste la, un petit geranium” (for Asterix fans). The kids loved it.

  11. Reply
    October 2, 2010 at 10:33 am #

    Wonderful. I already posted on facebbok. Cannot find the area to print just the recipe.

  12. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    October 2, 2010 at 3:22 pm #

    Hi Charlotte – unforunately, I don't have a good print function on the site; it is on my long to-do list but for now you just have to print the whole page. Thanks for sharing on facebook!

  13. Reply
    October 2, 2010 at 8:18 pm #

    Thanks for the response. I will go to the farmers marker in LA tomorrow to look for Delicata squash but I feel it is a few weeks to early here?!

  14. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    October 3, 2010 at 10:32 pm #

    Mmm, I'm not too sure about the produce timing in the LA area. I bet one of your local farmer's markets has a produce calendar online? Can anyone help Charlotte out?

  15. Reply
    November 7, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    I tried this recipe over the weekend and it really was amazing. Each element in the dish complicated the delicata squash and the flavor of the squash was wonderful. The only thing I didn’t add was the bread crumbs on the top. The parsley and pomegranate on top were perfect. This dish got rave reviews from my guests.

  16. Reply
    November 14, 2011 at 11:22 am #

    I’m assuming you could use Earth Balance or organic Smart Balance, both vegan, as an alternative to olive oil if you were trying to keep it vegan but wanted the essence of butter, no?

  17. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    November 14, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    Hey Ivy – yes, you can definitely use a vegan butter substitute. You'd want to skip the browning of the butter in that case, since I don't believe it will make the brown butter flavor. Maybe you would want to add something like porcini mushroom powder to bring in a different deep flavor.

  18. Reply
    November 28, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    I made this again for thanksgiving, using acorn squash instead of delicata, and skipping the breadcrumbs, because I knew that it wouldn’t be served immediately, and I didn’t want them to get soggy, etc. I used a few more pomegranate seeds than shown in the pictures here — perhaps 12-15 per quarter-squash. Definitely a success. I think I like the recipe better overall without the breadcrumbs. Side benefit: the leftovers reheat really nicely in the microwave.

  19. Reply
    November 23, 2012 at 3:49 am #

    I made this for our TG feast yesterday and it was yummy. Adjustments: half the butter, and more pomengranate seeds. Big hit with everybody. The flavor tip of the century: browning the butter!
    Thank you, Michael. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving yourself.

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