What I love most about this dish is how common ingredients we walk by in the store every day can surprise and delight with just a few, simple tweaks. I promise you, butternut squash + sage + brown butter + almonds with a splash of fresh squeezed lemon juice will rock your side dish world. While proofing recipes for my Loving Low Carb Cooking Class, we had Butternut Squash Noodles in Almond-Sage Browned Butter four times in one week and not once did we get tired of it. My faithful recipe tester (and husband) said it’s the best squash he’s ever eaten and I can’t argue.
Did I mention it takes about 15 minutes to make? Amazingly simple.
While the ingredient list is short, the way each item is prepared elevates the entire dish.
Butternut Squash: How to Prep it, Cook it and Sauce it.
You’ll need a spiral slicer of some kind to twirl and twist your squash into thin “noodles” which enhances the texture of the dish and reduces cooking time dramatically. For those who ordinarily don’t like squash, the spiral-cut texture can make all the difference.
But first, you’ll have to peel it.
If you have strong hands, a sharp knife and vegetable peeler is all you need. However, to make it easier for your vegetable peeler to do its job, slice 1/4-inch off of each end and pierce the squash a few times with a sharp knife. Microwave it for 2 minutes. Let it cool enough to easily handle and peel. Once it is free from the hard peeling, slice the squash to separate the longer portion from the bulb-shaped end. Wrap the bulb end in plastic wrap and save for another recipe—you can remove the seeds later. It’s the longer, straight portion you’ll spiral cut for this recipe.
Load and spiral cut your squash in your spiral slicer per manufacturer’s directions using a 1/8-inch blade size, if available. A larger blade size will require a slightly longer cooking time. Marvel over the gorgeous curly strands of butternut squash you just cranked out.
Don’t over cook it.
Spiral-sliced squash will soften in 7 to 8 minutes in the oven or in a large skillet. I tend to use the oven for larger quantities and a skillet for smaller servings. Taste test a noodle to see if it is soft, but retains a good texture or al dente. It will continue to soften slightly once removed from heat.
Go lightly with oil when preparing for a sauce.
You want the sauce to coat and cling to the noodles, so add only a small amount of oil to the squash when roasting or pan searing. Any favorite sauce can be ladled over the top, but in this case, add the noodles directly to the sauce to toss and evenly coat before serving.
How do you make butter even better? Brown it.
If you already love butter, you might be wondering how you could possibly love it more. Well, when you heat butter until the milk proteins release a nutty fragrance and resemble golden autumn hues, you have even better butter. However, be patient with it, medium heat is all you need and when it’s ready, move it off the heat because brown is brown and burnt is burnt. In this recipe, the almonds will complement your efforts exquisitely.
And then there’s the revelation of fried sage leaves.
Yes, sage. You know, that overlooked fuzzy leafed herb that often gets ignored in the garden? As much as we adore Chicken Saltimbocca and a sprinkle of it in our Thanksgiving dressing, I have found no better companion for sage than brown butter. I could eat butter fried sage leaves by the buckets. I don’t. But I could.
When you drop sage into the foaming browned butter, the tender leaves are transformed into thin wisps of herbaceous, nutty-buttery-ness. Pause for a moment to take in the gorgeous aroma then pluck one or two out of the pan. Taste. Surprising, right?! Go ahead, savor a couple more.
So keep that in mind when you’re shopping for this dish and question if you really need that much sage … no matter how many times I’ve increased it, I end up feeling like there could be more. So don’t skimp.
Does fresh squeezed lemon juice really matter?
In a word, absolutely. This exact question came up during our cooking class, so I set up a sample of fresh juice beside the sample of bottled lemon juice from my fridge (primarily used for baked goods). The fresh was described as fresh, bright and clean tasting. The bottled was described as tasting harsh and abrasive.
Hands down, fresh wins the flavor test, but it also brings the acid needed to balance the richness of the butter sauce. Acids like wine, vinegar, and citrus juices are the secret to savory or sweet recipes tasting great past the first or second bite, like a built-in palate cleanser.
Butternut Squash Noodles in Almond-Sage Brown Butter is a healthy side dish for roasted or grilled meats. Serve it as a bed for pan-seared fish and you have a fabulous meal in under 30 minutes. Enjoy!
- 6 cups spiral-sliced butternut squash noodles -- 2-pound squash with 1-pound, long, straight end
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons sliced almonds -- more for garnish, if desired
- 20 fresh sage leaves -- or more
- Sea salt and fresh ground pepper -- to taste
- Squeeze of fresh lemon
- Heat oven to 400°F. Prepare a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Spiral slice the peeled, straight end of the squash onto a large plate or platter using the small, spaghetti-sized blade. Drizzle with 1-2 teaspoons of the oil and toss with your hands to lightly coat the squash. Spread the noodles out evenly over the rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 7-8 minutes until softened, but should still have a slight crunch.
- While the noodles are roasting, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium to med-low heat. When the butter begins to foam and brown, stir in the almonds and sage. The sage should sizzle on contact and release its fragrance. Continue to stir until the butter and almonds are gold-brown and the sage is crisp. Remove from heat.
- Once the squash is ready, toss with the brown butter sauce to coat, shower with a generous squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper, to taste. Serve immediately.
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