Empanadas filled with butternut squash and ricotta cheese are a great way to put a Southwest spin on my favorite fall vegetable… squash. If you haven’t eaten squash since you graduated from the tiny little jars of Gerber Baby Food, it’s time to give them a second chance. These flaky little pastry packages filled with ricotta and parmesan cheeses blended with roasted butternut squash are a fall favorite of mine.
Ok, you’ve got me, just about anything in a flaky little pastry is a favorite of mine. But, seriously, you’ve got to try these.
Empanadas are a traditional Latin street food and can be stuffed with just about any kind of filling. Ground beef is one of the most common fillings. You will also find lots of papas (potato) fillings inside empanadas. There are even sweet versions of empanadas like pumpkin and apple. The dough is really what makes an empanada special. It is a very flaky dough, not a yeast dough like a calzone, but not a pie dough like turn over, either. It is probably closer to a good Southern biscuit dough, but not exactly.
The dough whips up as fast a biscuit but, if I am in a pinch for time, I sometimes use a refrigerated crescent roll dough. Just pinch together the perforated holes so the filling doesn’t leek out. I have tried a refrigerated biscuit dough and have not been happy with it. For some reason, the refrigerated biscuits “rise” when they are at room temperature (something I don’t like a baking powder biscuit is supposed to do but, who am I to judge?). By the time you get them ready for the oven, the dough has risen and then it rises some more in the oven. The result is a thick dough that is too much like a calzone.
I made this batch of Butternut Squash and Ricotta Empanadas for a squash recipe “round up” hosted by friend Dara, the creator of the Cookin’ Canuck. The monthly round ups are the creation of Meeta, from the blog What’s For Lunch Honey and have been going strong since 2006. They are sort of a “virtual pot luck” where bloggers share their favorite recipes around a monthly ingredient. Dara has been part of the Monthly Mingle events for quite some time and was kind enough to invite us to join in this month. As hostess, Dara was able to choose the “secret ingredient” for the month and, much to my delight, chose squash.
Be sure to head on over to her site and check out all of the other squash recipes. You will be amazed at what this little veggie from your childhood can do.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, rounded
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
- ½ cup lard or vegetable shortening, cold
- ¾ cups ice water
- 2½ cups butternut or red kuri squash, small dice
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 talblespoon Mexican oregano or rosemary, minced
- ½ teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
- 2 eggs, divided
- 1½ cups ricotta cheese
- ¼ cup cotija or parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 tablespoon parsley, minced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon milk
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar.
- Cut the cold butter and lard or shortening into ½ inch cubes. Sprinkle the cubes over the flour and work into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter or your fingers until the flour and butter forms balls the size of large peas. You should still be able to see bits of butter and lard.
- Slowly drizzle in the ice water and mix until the dough just comes together in a ball.
- Pat the dough into the shape of a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least one hour.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Carefully cut the squash into sections and scoop out the seeds. Microwave the squash for 2 to 3 minutes or until just soft enough to easily peel and dice into ½ inch cubes.
- In a large bowl, toss the diced squash and the olive oil until the squash is well coated. Season with kosher salt and black pepper, sprinkle with the Mexican oregano or rosemary and chile flakes.
- Roast the squash on a sheet pan at for 15 to 17 minutes or until fork tender.
- Remove from the oven and chill.
- In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg add the ricotta cheese, cotija cheese or parmesan cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. Cover with plastic and chill.
- Roll the dough into a large ⅛ inch thick circle. Cut into 3 inch circles with a cookie or biscuit cutter.
- Place 1 spoonful of chilled squash and 1 spoonful of ricotta mixture onto the center of each circle. Fold one half of the circle over the filling and form a half moon shape. Seal the edges together by folding over the edge of the empanada and pinching together with your fingers or seal the edges together with the tines of a fork.
- In a small bowl, lightly beat the remaining egg. Add the milk and brush mixture over the empanada. Cut 3 small holes in the top of the empanada.
- Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 17 minutes or deep fry at 375.
Don’t forget to check out our 200 Appetizers Cookbook! Order now so you will get it before the holiday party season starts. There are plenty of great appetizers to serve on game day as well. Perfect for the super bowl!
—posted by Sandy