Twice-Baked Butternut Squash with Quinoa, Pecans, and Parmesan

by Jess on November 18, 2012

in Favorites, Recipes, Side Dishes, Vegetarian

Bangkok is aflutter today with the arrival of President Obama!

The President and Thanksgiving in a five day span?  It’s a big week.{source}


Turns out it’s tricky to transition from the President of the United States to butternut squash.

But moving on anyways..

As much as I love vegetables, I never give them as much attention as I do at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  This time of year, vegetable sides deserve a little extra love.

Despite that, I was hesitant to fiddle with perfection when a few of these little butternut squash started turning up around Bangkok.  My friend Natalie scooped these up  for me when she saw them at the grocery store.  They were so little that she had them in her purse when we met up for drinks this week.

I have to think that if there’s one thing worth doing with butternut squash, it’s filling them with quinoa, pecans, and parmesan, topping them with breadcrumbs and baking them until they’re golden, crisp, and bubbly.

This filling was the clear winner, but I also tried a delicious combination of pancetta, gruyere, caramelized onion, and sage.  You could take these twice-baked butternut squash in just about any direction.

I used small butternut squash (about 8 oz. each) which are undeniably fun for serving, but a big squash would be beautiful as well.

The squash can be roasted a day or two in advance, and the entire dish can even be assembled a night ahead.  Just cover and refrigerate and bake the next day.

We needed a lot of vegetables this weekend to balance the buttery, creamy, stuffing balls that are the crown jewel of any Thanksgiving in which Frank has a hand.  Frank’s mom sent the ingredients to him from home, so here’s hoping they get here in time.

Anyone else making squash for Thanksgiving this week?

Twice-Baked Butternut Squash with Quinoa, Pecans, and Parmesan
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A simple, elegant butternut squash filled with pecans and parmesan that can be made in advance and baked just before serving.
Recipe type: Side Dish, Vegetable
Serves: 8
  • 4 pounds of butternut squash (about 2 regular, or 4 small)
  • salt and pepper
  • ⅔ cup uncooked quinoa
  • ⅔ cup pecan halves, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¾ cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 oz. (115g.) parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Wash the outside of the squash. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds (I use an ice cream scoop). Place the squash halves cut-side up in a large baking dish. Sprinkle the surface of the squash with salt and pepper. Pour ¼ inch of water in the bottom of the pan and cover the pan tightly with foil. Bake the squash until it is tender when pierced with a fork, 30-50 minutes depending on the size (my little ones were done in 30). Remove from the oven, discard foil, and allow the squash to cool.
  2. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees F.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the quinoa by bringing 1 and ⅓ cup water to boil in a small pot. Add the quinoa, reduce to a simmer and put a lid on the pot. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
  4. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Toast the pecans until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Set aside. In the same skillet over medium heat, combine the olive oil and shallots. Cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots soften, about 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat.
  5. Using a spoon or an ice cream scoop, gently scrape the flesh out of the roasted squash halves, leaving a layer of about ¼ inch of squash remaining in the shell. (Leave the squash shells in the baking dish.) In a large bowl combine the squash, cooked quinoa, pecans, shallot, oregano, and salt. In another small bowl whisk together the panko breadcrumbs and butter.
  6. Finely grate the parmesan cheese. Add 2 Tbsp. of the cheese to the panko. Add the remaining parmesan to the squash mixture and stir to combine all of the ingredients.
  7. Gently spoon the squash mixture into the squash shells. Sprinkle the panko and parmesan over the top.
  8. Return squash to the oven and bake, uncovered, until the tops are golden brown, 20-25 minutes.


{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Katie (The Muffin Myth) November 18, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Those squash are gorgeous and the filling looks right up my alley. Luckily, butternut is the one kind of squash that is actually really easy to find here. I’ll definitely be trying these out, thanks for the recipe!
Katie (The Muffin Myth) recently posted..what’s good around the web!My Profile


2 Hdiddly November 19, 2012 at 12:27 am

Making a casserole with butternut, onions, cheddar for Thanksgiving. Totally not photogenic but yummm :)

Moar Obama pls! – H from down the hall!


3 Jess November 19, 2012 at 7:30 am

Haha – hey neighbor! Fun seeing you last night! So you found butternuts too!


4 Debra November 19, 2012 at 1:41 am

I think you segued nicely from the Prez to butternut squash. :) I am stealing this stuffing recipe! It would make a great meal by itself.
Debra recently posted..Soba Noodles with Beet GreensMy Profile


5 Jess November 19, 2012 at 7:31 am

Debra – I was thinking the same thing. It’s festive, but it would be a good vegetarian meal all on its own. Looking forward to seeing what you’ve got cooking this week!


6 Averie @ Averie Cooks November 19, 2012 at 4:19 pm

I love baking butternut squash like this – stuffed and open-faced. I bet the quinoa adds such a nice pop of texture to it!


7 Jess November 20, 2012 at 7:30 am

This was my first time baking them like this, Averie, but I don’t know what took me so long! It’s a new favorite – so pretty and so easy!


8 Paola @ November 20, 2012 at 2:21 am

This looks crazy good- I’ve never baked butternut squash like this, and it looks soooo good with the quinoa!
Paola @ recently posted..(vegan) raspberry ‘n buckwheat sconesMy Profile


9 Jess November 20, 2012 at 7:30 am

Definitely try the quinoa with squash, Paola – the flavors are great together!


10 Vicky December 4, 2012 at 4:17 pm

This sounds absolutely amazing! Ever since my boyfriend and I started our backpacking trip in Asia I;ve seriously been missing quinoa and haven;t seen it anywhere! I’m guessing you were able to buy some in Bangkok?
Vicky recently posted..Broiled Red Snapper with Chili Shallot SauceMy Profile


11 Jess December 4, 2012 at 8:22 pm

It took a little searching, but I have found quinoa in Bangkok, although I still always ask for it in care packages from home and plan to get red quinoa when I’m back in the U.S. over the holidays this month! A grocery store chain called Villa here in Bangkok sells all sorts of Bob’s Red Mill products – surprising, but definitely worth a splurge on occasion!


12 Christine October 14, 2013 at 1:16 am

I would love to get the recipes for the stuffing balls! This looks awesome!


13 Jess October 29, 2013 at 7:18 am

Christine – my husband was so excited that someone was requesting his favorite recipe of all time! I’ll definitely share it on the blog soon. They’re a classic in our house!


14 Michele November 1, 2013 at 7:54 am

Made this but made a brown butter with sage and sauteed the onions in it. Left out the olive oil and oregano. It was AMAZING!! So perfectly delicious!!


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