Butternut Squash Crostata
I love a rustic tart, especially the classic Italian crostata. However, these tarts are traditionally sweet, made with fruit or jam, like my plum crostata recipe. But why not make a savory version!? So, instead of enjoying a slice for dessert, it could be an appetizer, a light lunch, or even a dinner party side dish.
For this savory crostata recipe, I combined some of my favorite flavors: butternut squash and sage. It’s quite the autumnal flavor profile, but since butternut squash is available year round, you can enjoy these comforting tastes whenever you have the craving.
To draw out the natural sweetness of the butternut squash, I roast it. Then I add caramelized onion, which lends a rich depth of flavor. Brown butter and sage are a classic combination, so I toast the herb in the brown butter.
And let’s not forget the pastry! This crostata crust has the addition of cornmeal for some nice toothsome texture and fresh rosemary to add even more herbal interest. There’s also salt and pepper. My most important pastry tip here is to roll out the dough between parchment paper and plastic wrap. This way no additional flour is used, which makes the crust even more tender and flaky.
Butternut Squash Crostata with Caramelized Onion, Brown Butter, and Sage1-1/2- to 2-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
fine sea salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 large sage leaves, sliced, plus 5 whole leaves for decoration
1 egg, beaten for an egg wash
crostata crust, recipe follows
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay out the diced butternut squash in one layer, and roast until knife tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Drizzle lightly with oil. Add the sliced onions with a large pinch of salt. Sauté until they start to turn a light brown. Reduce the heat by one notch, continue to stir and sauté until the color darkens. Reduce the heat again by one notch. Keep cooking until the color darkens to a deep walnut color while reducing the heat gradually. Add a tablespoon of water to release any brown bits from the bottom of the skillet, and let any remaining moisture evaporate.
Once the squash has finished roasting, transfer it to a pot over medium heat. Mash the squash using a potato masher. Keep mashing and stirring the squash mixture to help dehydrate it a bit. Switch to a whisk to get an even finer mash. Season to taste with salt.
Start browning the butter by heating it on low heat in a saucepan until it has completely melted. Then increase the heat to medium and allow the butter to darken while swirling the pan periodically. Once it’s reached a deep walnut color, add the sliced sage leaves until they toast and release their aroma.
Add the brown butter and sage to the pot with the squash mixture. Also add the caramelized onion. Fold everything together. Check the seasoning and add more salt if needed. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. While the crostata filling cools, roll out the dough.
Increase the heat of the oven to 425 degrees F. Use the convection setting if it’s available.
Lay a large piece of parchment onto a pastry board or countertop. Unwrap the chilled disc of dough, lay it on the parchment, and lay it over with the plastic wrap. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough over the plastic wrap, this way avoiding the use of any additional flour. Keep working from the center of the dough outward. If the edges crack slightly, press them back together, but once the dough has warmed up there will be less and less cracking.
Roll the dough to an 1/8-inch thickness. Brush the dough with the egg wash. Dock the dough with a fork. Spread the filling evenly over the dough, while leaving a 1-1/2-inch border all around. Fold up the edges of the dough to create a rustically shaped crostata. Brush the edges of the dough with the egg wash. Decorate the top of the crostata filling with the reserved sage leaves.
Carefully transfer the crostata with the parchment paper onto a rimless baking sheet or underside of a baking sheet. Bake until the crust is a rich golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Let the crostata cool to room temperature before slicing and serving. Yield: 6 to 8 slices.
Crostata Crust1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 sprig fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
In a large bowl, combine the flours, cornmeal, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Mix together with a whisk to aerate.
Add butter and work with a fork or pastry blender until mixture resembles course meal.
Add water 1 tablespoon at a time. Mix until dough comes together.
On a large sheet of plastic wrap, form the dough into a flat disc. Wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or in the freezer for 20 minutes before rolling. Yield: 1 pie crust.