Recipe ideas for hearty squash Thanksgiving sides

Roasted Butternut Squash With Green Apples and Candied Walnuts.
Roasted Butternut Squash With Green Apples and Candied Walnuts.
Published Nov. 20, 2014

Thanksgiving as a holiday is a bit of a white carb bonanza. There are the rolls, the pies, the mashed potatoes. We like to make sure some fruits and vegetables find their way onto the table. Winter squash is a solid option that should appeal to vegetarian family members and the ones who turn their noses up at anything green.

The three most popular varieties that come around this time of year are acorn, spaghetti and the ubiquitous butternut, so we went looking for hearty side dishes that brought out the best in those.

The key to a good squash dish is roasting the fleshy gourds in an oven at a high temperature, which brings out a deeper flavor, a wonderful sort of nuttiness, and gives them a soft, scoopable texture.

Spaghetti squash can be a simple side dish on its own, the bright yellow flesh shredded with a fork and tossed with salt and pepper. (One of my favorite tricks is to add butter and maple syrup to the mix.) But we're pumping it up with zucchini and pine nuts.

Halving and stuffing squash with goodies like cheese and nuts is a good way to treat any variety. But acorn squash in particular provides a compact vessel for Wild Rice Stuffed Squash, which screams Thanksgiving with a potent combination of sage, cherries and pecans.

As for butternut, well, it's hard to go wrong there, with soup, risotto and ravioli benefiting from the orange squash's sweet flavor. That sweet factor is showcased in a recipe that pairs cubed butternut squash with apples and brown sugar. It's almost good enough to be dessert.

On second thought, we'll stick with the pie.