Butternut Squash in Sweet and Sour Sauce (Zucca Gialla in Agrodolce)

Tina Wasserman
butternut squash

I first saw this dish in Joyce Goldstein’s Cucina Ebraica. I was intrigued by the flavor combinations. The sweet-and-sour flavoring is so much a part of the Jewish culinary culture, and the use of vinegar implies that this dish was made in advance for the Sabbath day meal. The following is an adaptation of Joyce’s recipe.

2 pounds butternut squash
2–3 tablespoons olive oil, or as needed
Kosher salt as needed
1/2 cup chiffonade of fresh mint
2 large cloves of garlic, sliced lengthwise into thin slivers
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar (less if using balsamic vinegar)
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, peel it, andremove all seeds and fibers from the inside. Cut each half lengthwise again and slice crosswise into 1/4-inch slices.
  2. Toss the squash slices with 2 tablespoons of olive oil to coat, and place the squash slices on a nonstick cookie sheet or roasting pan. Sprinkle very lightly with some kosher salt.
  3. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 400° F or until squash is tender but firm – if the tip of a sharp knife is easily inserted and removed from the squash, it is done.
  4. Layer the cooked squash with the mint and garlic slivers in a serving dish.
  5. Pour any pan drippings from the squash into an 8-inch nonstick sauté pan. If there is very little oil, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Heat on medium for 10 seconds.
  6. Add the balsamic vinegar and sugar first to dissolve, and then add the cinnamon to the pan. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture bubbles and thickens slightly, about 4 minutes.
  7. Pour the hot syrup over the squash, and gently move and lift the squash with a rubber spatula or large plastic serving spoon (these utensils won’t cut into the pieces of squash) to distribute the sauce evenly.
  8. Serve at once or at room temperature, which is perfect for a buffet.
Tina's Tidbits: 

  • To chiffonade a leafy herb, layer 5–10 leaves on top of each other, and roll the leaves tightly together into a long log like a cigarette. Cutting across the log, make thin slices. When you are done, there will be thin strands of herb that almost float when you toss them in the air – hence the reference to chiffon!
  • Balsamic vinegar is made from white trebbiano grapes. The juice is allowed to age in different types and sizes of wood barrels that impart the special sweet-tart flavor to the vinegar.