My butternut squash casserole is warming and cozy, filled with fall colors and lots of earthy flavors. Prepared with cubed and roasted butternut squash and apples that are layered with sweet sausage, caramelized fennel and onions, plus a sprinkle of melted Gruyere cheese, this festive dish is the epitome of autumn!
Brimming with the Flavors of Fall
I find it a total joy and wonderful culinary challenge to come up with new, seasonal recipes each year that make use of the ingredients that happen to be bountiful at any given time.
Since fall is my favorite season, I love to create cozy, comforting and nourishing recipes centered around various types of squash. Squash is so incredibly versatile and quite easy to cook with, not to mention healthy and gloriously colorful!
Butternut squash is a very popular variety of squash and one of my personal favorites, as I use it in many of my seasonal soups or as a component in a hot, savory dip. We even like to enjoy it roasted up and mashed until smooth, served as a vibrant alternative to mashed potatoes.
This year, I was craving something a little different, a recipe that went more in the direction of a casserole, so I created my butternut squash casserole recipe brimming with loads of fall flavor.
I layered it with lots of sweet-savory and earthy ingredients such as apples roasted alongside of the butternut squash, plus caramelized sweet sausage, fennel and onions, and a sprinkle of Gruyere cheese, making it a terrific option to serve as a casual weeknight meal, or as an offering fit for the holiday table.
Perfectly warming, comforting and delicious, this butternut squash casserole is a terrific, gluten-free alternative to a traditional bread-based stuffing recipe for the holiday table, or simply a fantastic, seasonal “everyday” type of recipe to prepare if you're looking for a delicious new way to transform butternut squash!
A Butternut Squash Casserole Recipe Layered with Seasonal Ingredients
Because I love both sweet and savory elements in this butternut squash casserole, I combine medium size cubes of butternut squash with cubes of fresh apples plus a touch of pure maple syrup, and then roast those together just until tender.
I also love the flavor of fennel, and caramelize a couple of thinly sliced bulbs in a pan along with a thinly sliced onion, until golden-brown, slightly sweet and jammy.
Sweet Italian sausage is a tasty twist in this casserole, and I appreciate the addition of a little protein, but it can easily be left out of the dish in order to keep this casserole completely vegetarian, if desired.
I gently combine all the ingredients in a baking dish and then finish with a light sprinkle of Gruyere cheese for a bit of savoriness before baking to hot, delicious perfection!
Here's a sneak peek at my butternut squash casserole recipe:. (or just jump to the recipe...)
- To begin, I toss cubed butternut squash with cubed apples, maple syrup and some seasonings, and roast until tender and golden.
- While the squash and apples roast, I caramelize some sweet Italian sausage in a skillet, then remove that and add into that same pan some thinly sliced fennel and onions, and saute those together until caramelized.
- To assemble the butternut squash casserole, I combine the caramelized sweet Italian sausage, fennel and onions with the roasted butternut squash and apples, spoon into a casserole dish, and sprinkle over some Gruyere cheese
- Then, I broil the casserole for a few minutes until the cheese is melted and golden-brown on top, sprinkle over some fresh or fried sage leaves and serve.
Butternut Squash Casserole
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 6
Nutrition Info: 288 calories per serving
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
- 2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cubed into medium-size chunks
- 2 Honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored and cubed into larger chunks (to match the squash)
- Olive oil
- Black pepper
- 2 tablespoons pure maples syrup, divided use
- ½ teaspoon ground, dried sage
- 1 ½ teaspoons Herbes de Provence
- ½ pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed and crumbled
- 2 small fennel bulbs (stalks/fronds removed), cut in half lengthwise, cored, and thinly sliced
- 1 onion, quartered and thinly sliced
- 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
- Fresh sage leaves (fresh or fried), for garnish
- Preheat your oven to 425°, and line a baking sheet with foil lightly misted with cooking spray.
- Place you cubed butternut squash and apples into a large bowl, and drizzle in about 2 tablespoons of oil. Sprinkle over a generous couple of pinches of salt and black pepper, along with 1 tablespoon of the maple syrup, the dried sage and the Herbes de Provence; toss to coat.
- Turn the mixture out onto your prepared baking sheet, and roast for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally for even roasting, or until the squash is tender.
- While the butternut squash and apples roast, place a large skillet (cast-iron is great) over medium-high heat, and add a small drizzle of olive oil; once the pan is very hot, add the crumbled sweet Italian sausage in and cook until browned and cooked through, a few minutes. Remove from the pan and keep in a bowl.
- If additional oil is needed in the pan/skillet, add a small amount in; then, add the sliced fennel and onion into the pan and caramelize together for about 10-12 minutes, or until deeply golden and a bit jammy in texture. Remove from pan and add to the sausage.
- Once the butternut squash and apples are tender and roasted, switch your oven setting to “broil”.
- To prepare the casserole, carefully spoon the roasted butternut squash/apples into a large bowl, and add the sausage/fennel/onion mixture to that. Pour in the remaining 1 tablespoon maple syrup and toss to combine (add a touch more salt and pepper to create a sweet-savory flavor), then spoon into a medium size (roughly 9 by 13) baking dish.
- If preparing fried sage leaves as a garnish, heat about ¼ cup of oil in a small sauce pan or pot, and once shimmering, add the sage leaves and fry for about 20 seconds, then remove them and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt and set aside.
- To finish the casserole, top with the grated Gruyere cheese and place into the oven under the broiler for a few minutes, until the cheese is melted and golden-brown.
- Garnish the butternut squash casserole with either the fried sage leaves or fresh ones, and serve.
Tips & Tidbits for my Butternut Squash Casserole:
- Pre-cut butternut squash, for convenience: Any time I can find some pre-packaged/pre-cut butternut squash, I opt for that. I appreciate not having to monkey around with peeling and seeding the whole squash. But if you have a whole squash on hand, feel free to use it, cutting it into medium-size chunks for the recipe.
- Sweet apples to use in this casserole: Honeycrisp apples are my favorites to eat and cook with, as they are both sweet and tart, not too hard nor too soft. Other varietals that are good are Golden Delicious, Gala, or Jonagold.
- Vegetarian butternut squash casserole: If you'd like to keep this casserole completely vegetarian, then simply omit the sweet Italian sausage, and proceed with caramelizing the fennel and onions. You could even use a vegan cheese in place of the Gruyere if you'd like to go completely vegan with this recipe, or just combine the ingredients and leave the cheese off altogether.
- Other cheeses to top the casserole with: Some other cheeses that would work well as a topper with this casserole are mozzarella, white cheddar, or Jack cheese. You could even crumble chunks of brie over top if you're looking for extra creamy decadence.