Butternut squash pie is a sweet pastry dish that people serve most often as a dessert. Chefs also create less-sweet versions to use as a side dish or main entrée. Either way, the primary ingredient and overall taste of the pie is derived from a particular type of vegetable known as butternut squash.
Otherwise known by its more formal name, cururbita moschata, the butternut squash is a pear-shaped winter squash that has an elongated neck and a bulbous body. The skin ranges in color from tan to light yellow, and the inside fruit is yellowish-orange with pale seeds that look very much like pumpkin seeds. The squash has an earthy, sweet flavor that some people describe as a cross between a yam and a pumpkin.
The most popular type of butternut squash pie is a sweet version that many people serve as a dessert. Similar to pumpkin pie, the butternut squash pie is made with a single, bottom layer of crust. Chefs generally clean out the interior seeds and bake the squash beforehand so that they can easily scoop out the pulp. They then mash the pulp and blend it with sugar, cream, eggs, and other ingredients. Cooks also add a variety of spices, such as ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg to give the pie a classic burst of flavor.
Once the filling is poured into the pie shell, it takes about an hour to cook. Chefs serve the pie warm or cold and typically top it with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Many cooks add their own variations to give their butternut squash pies unique looks and tastes For instance, some chefs might add walnuts or pecans to the squash mixture, while others might blend cream cheese into the filling to give the pie a cheesecake-like taste and texture.
In some instances, chefs do not prepare butternut squash pie as a dessert but rather as a side dish or entrée. In those cases, the pie usually has a top crust and more closely resembles a pot pie. Instead of pureeing the pulp, cooks baking this type of butternut squash pie generally peel and cube uncooked fruit and sauté the pieces with a variety of other vegetables, such as onions, peppers, and spinach. They place the mix into the pie shell, with a layer of crust on top, and bake it. The result is a chunky, slightly sweet medley of vegetables that can be used as a main dish or an excellent accompaniment to almost any meal.