Pumpkins and squashes make for an eye-catching addition to a decorative fall centerpiece but they’re also a worthy addition to a wide array of seasonal dishes from salads and soups, to marvelous mains, and of course, dessert. You can’t go wrong with classic varieties like spaghetti, butternut, and acorn. But we also encourage you to broaden your horizons. That includes taking a chance on those crazy-looking Cucurbitae—the oddly-shaped, funky-colored squashes that are just begging to be the stars of a future Pixar release.
For your next fall feast, consider cooking with these traditional and under-the-radar pumpkin and squash options.
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The deep, dark green ridges of an acorn give way to a mild, nutty, broadly appealing flesh that makes the squash adaptable to a wide variety of recipes both plain and elevated. Roast it in the oven on its own, or consider stuffing it with something equally seasonal like wild rice.
When cooked, spaghetti squash famously lives up to its namesake as the fibers break down into thin, mildly sweet strands. It’s a reliable and healthier stand-in for traditional pasta whether served simply roasted with a sprinkle of cheese or as the anchor of a gooey gratin.
The pale exterior of a butternut squash belies the gorgeous orange hue of its interior flesh, synonymous with fall and the changing of the leaves. It’s deliciously sweet, and barely needs any seasoning to highlight its fabulous flavor. Olive oil, salt, and pepper (perhaps a sprinkle of brown sugar too) are all that’s required to roast it to perfection. For a big batch, make-ahead meal, consider a noodle-less lasagna or our Butternut Squash Soup.
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A winter squash that’s enormously popular across Asia and beyond, kabocha resembles a ridgeless acorn squash. The tender sweet flesh is extremely versatile, adaptable to everything from Thai curry to Scotch eggs.
Resist the temptation to keep the Jarrahdale intact for decorative purposes. According to Robbie Denny, Farmers Market and Farm Market Manager for California’s Underwood Family Farms, this six-to-ten-pound blue-gray skinned beauty is the perfect pumpkin for pies. Its sweet, meaty interior is richer, creamier, and less stringy than the flesh of the more commonly used sugar pumpkin.
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Cream-colored with orange and green stripes (its oblong shape is reminiscent of a miniature vintage rugby ball), the delicata has skyrocketed in popularity over the last few years and for good reason.
True to its name, the squash has a thin skin offering easy access to its delicious interior, which according to Denny, “tastes like a cross between fresh corn and pumpkin pie.” Roasted, it works wonders in a flavorful fall salad or for a crunchy Japanese spin, dip some slices into a tempura batter and fry them up.
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Red Kuri Squash
A member of the Hubbard family, the pear-shaped red kuri is a favorite of Denny, who uses the versatile squash in pies, stews, and stuffing. Devotees can’t get enough of its nutty flavor—“kuri” in Japanese refers to a native variety of chestnut. They’re also a cinch to prepare. The squash’s ridge-less, dark-orange skin is edible when cooked, so no peeling is required.
Blue Hubbard Squash
A handheld electric saw will help provide access to the squash’s notoriously tough blue-green rind, but Denny offers an alternative method to getting to the good stuff. “I just drop it on the cement and it pops right open,” she says. “To me that’s the easiest.”
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If you’re a fan of the bread bowl, consider this multi-colored marvel with a bulbous cap reminiscent of the Mad Hatter or Kuato from “Total Recall,” depending on your pop culture sensibilities. Denny recommends cutting off the top and cooking the bottom half of the squash while heating chili beans on the side. Remove the flesh, mix it with the chili beans, then serve it in the hollowed out turban. “It’s a beautiful serving bowl,” says Denny, who describes the chili beans and squash combination as “tremendous.”
Long Island Cheese Pumpkin
For better or worse, the Long Island cheese earned its name from its appearance, not its taste. Though not exactly the spitting image of a traditional cheese wheel, the sizeable tan-colored pumpkin is certainly an attention-grabber.
“It’s beautiful,” says Denny. “A lot of people who buy [Long Island Cheese pumpkins] use them for decoration during October and then use them on their table in November, and then they cook them.”