Butternut Squash Casserole
Filled with squash, rice, spinach, and ricotta cheese, this butternut squash casserole is a cross between a baked risotto and lasagna and makes a hearty vegetarian meal. This casserole works equally well as a main course or a side dish and keeps well in the fridge or freezer making it a great make-ahead meal for busy weekdays.
I’m totally obsessed with the flavors and textures in this casserole. The combination of squash and sage, along with the creamy texture from the cheese, make this butternut squash casserole a heart-warming, comforting, stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal that is perfect for a fall or winter day. Inspired by a baked risotto and a vegetarian lasagna, this casserole has everything you love about both classic dishes and so much more!
What You’ll Need:
Here’s what you’ll need to make this baked ricotta and squash casserole:
Butternut Squash: This sweet and nutty-tasting winter squash is the star ingredient in this casserole recipe. Although this is a butternut squash recipe, you could use acorn squash, buttercup squash, or even sweet potatoes if you prefer.
Arborio Rice: To give this recipe is risotto-like texture. If you don’t have arborio rice, another short-grain rice such as carnaroli rice would work best, however, any white rice variety will work.
Ricotta Cheese: The use of ricotta cheese in this casserole helps to ramp up the protein content. You can use whole milk or skim milk ricotta.
Spinach: To add some leafy greens and a boost of fiber. The recipe calls for fresh spinach because that’s what I had on hand, but you could certainly swap it for frozen spinach if needed.
Broth: To add flavor and cook the rice and the squash. Feel free to use chicken broth or vegetable broth.
Herbs and Spices: A bit of sage, nutmeg, and salt to season the casserole and add some fall and winter flavors. Feel free to add a pinch of cinnamon and a bit of black pepper too.
Mozzarella Cheese: And a little extra cheese to top the casserole and give it a nice cheesy taste and texture.
How to Make Butternut Squash Casserole
This recipe is super easy to make and doesn’t require much cooking at all. Here’s how you make it:
- Prepare the butternut squash. Peel and cut the butternut squash into bite-size pieces, the smaller you can make them the better. While I suggest removing the flesh from the squash, as I find it a bit tough for the dish, it is edible and you can leave it if you prefer.
- Wilt the spinach. Add the chopped spinach to a pan with a bit of water and cook it for a couple of minutes until it’s all wilted and dramatically reduced in size.
- Mix the ricotta mixture. In a large bowl, add the ricotta cheese with the wilted spinach, sage, nutmeg, and salt and stir to combine.
- Add to the casserole dish. Add the rice, butternut squash, ricotta mixture, and broth to a casserole dish and gently stir until well incorporated.
- Bake the casserole. Cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil and transfer it to the oven to bake.
- Top with cheese. Once the liquid has been absorbed and the squash is tender and the rice can be fluffed with a fork, remove the casserole dish from the oven, top it with shredded mozzarella cheese, and return to the oven until the cheese is melted and the top is golden brown.
- Serve and enjoy! Once baked, the casserole can be served immediately as a main course or a side dish.
While optional, if you want to add a little extra flavor you can top the casserole with a few fried sage leaves. Simply warm a bit of olive oil in a pan to medium-high heat, then add fresh sage leaves and cook for a few seconds on both sides, then remove from the heat and transfer to a plate to cool with a sprinkle of salt, before adding them to the top of the casserole.
What to Serve it With
Not only are the flavors in this recipe on point but this dish is equally as delicious as it is nutritious. The use of ricotta cheese helps to add some high-quality protein to the casserole, while the squash and rice provide some complex carbohydrates, and the spinach adds a boost of greens and fiber. Given the recipe is well-balanced with protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, it can be served as a main course or a side dish and would pair well with:
- Lemon Garlic Chicken Thighs
- Pesto Salmon
- Slow-Roasted Salmon with Herbs
- Herb-Crusted Pork Tenderloin
- Grilled Steak
- Roast Chicken
- Roast Turkey
- Roast Ham
- Roast Beef
- Fried Eggs
- Roasted Broccoli
- Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad
- Green Salad
Storage & Reheating
To Store: Leftover casserole can be covered with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, transferred to an airtight container and stored in the fridge for up to 5 days.
To Freeze: To freeze the casserole whole, cover the casserole dish with plastic wrap and aluminum foil and place it in a freezer-safe bag, and place it in the freezer. To freeze the leftover casserole, transfer the leftovers to an airtight container and place it in the freezer. The casserole can be frozen for up to 3 months.
To Reheat: From the fridge, place the casserole in an oven-proof dish, cover it with aluminum foil, and warm in the oven at 350°F for 10-15 minutes or until heated through. If frozen, allow the casserole to thaw overnight before placing it in the oven. To reheat from frozen, cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil and warm it in the oven at 350°F for 40-50 minutes until heated through.
This savory butternut squash casserole is perfect for a cold-weather dinner and works equally well as a meal prep idea for a week’s worth of healthy lunches.
More Butternut Squash Recipes:
This healthy butternut squash casserole works equally well as a vegetarian main course or a hearty side dish.
- 1 small butternut squash, peeled and 1/4″ dice (about 4–5 cups)
- 1 1/2 cups Arborio or short-grain rice, dry
- 1 tablespoon sage, dried or freshly minced
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 5 cups spinach, roughly chopped
- 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
- Fresh sage leaves, to serve (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- In a large skillet on medium heat, add chopped spinach with 2 tablespoons of water. Using a wooden spoon or tongs, gently toss and turn the spinach until spinach wilts, ensuring all the raw leaves make contact with the pan. Once wilted, turn off the heat and set it aside to cool slightly.
- In a large bowl, add ricotta cheese, spinach, sage, nutmeg, and salt and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula, and mix until well combined.
- In a large 2 or 3-quart baking dish (I used a 9 x 13 baking dish), add the butternut squash and rice, and stir to combine. For the best results, ensure that the squash is cut into small, bite-sized, 1/4″ cube pieces. Doing so will ensure it cooks evenly with the rice and provide a more consistent texture to the dish.
- Transfer the ricotta cheese mixture to the baking dish with the squash and rice, and dollop it evenly across the top. Add broth and then give everything a good stir until everything is well incorporated and evenly dispersed in the baking dish.
- Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and then transfer to the oven to bake for 40-45 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.
- Once complete, remove the baking dish from the oven, remove the aluminum foil, and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Return the casserole dish to the oven, uncovered, for a final 5-10 minutes until the cheese has melted and is slightly golden.
- Optional: While the casserole is baking, you can fry some sage leaves to top the casserole. Warm a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pan to medium-high heat, then add fresh sage leaves, working in batches, and fry for 3-5 seconds until golden, watching them closely to ensure they do not burn. Once fried, use tongs to remove them from the pan, place on a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb any excess oil, and sprinkle with a bit of salt.
- Once the cheese has melted, remove the casserole from the oven, allow to cool slightly and top it with fried sage (optional) before serving. Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days or freezer for up to 3 months.
- Serving Size: 1 slice
- Calories: 394 calories
- Sugar: 4 grams
- Fat: 9 grams
- Carbohydrates: 59 grams
- Fiber: 4 grams
- Protein: 21 grams
Keywords: savory butternut squash casserole, healthy butternut squash casserole