Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini and Za’atar

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Or, to put it another way, I lost my round of The Piglet. Granted, there was no way I could ever have triumphed over Naomi Duguid’s brilliant Burma. She totally deserved her win.

But I have to confess, I took great comfort the next day when Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem joined me on the loser’s bench. It helped me realize how arbitrary this all was. Jerusalem was a clear front-runner for Cookbook of the Year; but Marco Canora, who judged this round (and, incidentally, is one of the chefs featured in my book!), found Jerusalem wanting. Funny enough, he singled out a dish I had made a few days earlier to great fanfare and called it “not particularly exciting.” Again, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

And this dish (at least to this man) is an absolute treasure. The process couldn’t be easier. You heat your oven to 475, toss butternut squash wedges (skin-on) and red onion with olive oil, salt and pepper on a sheet tray and roast until the vegetables are cooked through and starting to brown.


While that’s happening, you make a sauce by stirring together tahini, garlic, lemon juice, water and salt. You also toast pine nuts in olive oil until they’re fragrant and golden.

It all comes together at the end. You lay the butternut squash and the onions on a serving dish, drizzle on the tahini sauce, sprinkle on the pine nuts and, at the very end, dash everything with za’atar (that wonderful spice blend that makes everything taste better) and chopped parsley. Here’s another picture, not so Instagrammy:


It’s a stunning assemblage–especially for a vegetarian dinner party–and there are so many flavors going on it grabs you by the collar and doesn’t let go. Unless you’re Marco Canora, in which case it doesn’t. Marco’s got one of the best palate’s around, Hearth is one of the best restaurants in New York City, so clearly the man knows what he’s talking down. I suppose it comes down to personal taste. Does this look good to you? Can you imagine what this will taste like in your head? Do you enjoy that taste? Then this dish is for you. Otherwise, you may want to cook something out of the book Marco picked as the winner of that round: Asian Tofu by Andrea Nguyen.

Recipe: Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini and Za’atar

Summary: From Yotam Ottolenghi’s wonderful cookbook, Jerusalem.


  • 1 large butternut squash (2 1/4 lb / 1.1 kg in total), cut into 3/4 by 2 1/2-inch / 2 by 6 cm wedges
  • 2 red onions, cut into 1 1/4-inch / 3 cm wedges
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons / 50 mL olive oil
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons, light tahini paste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons / 30 g pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon za’atar
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 475 F.
  2. Put the squash and onion in a large mixing bowl, add 3 tablespoons of the oil, 1 teaspoon salt (I used more), and some black pepper and toss well. Spread on a baking sheet with the skin facing down and roast in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the vegetables have taken on some color and are cooked through. Keep an eye on the onions as they might cook faster than the squash and need to be removed earlier. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  3. To make the sauce, place the tahini in a small bowl along with the lemon juice, water, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Whisk until the sauce is the consistency of honey, adding more water or tahini if necessary.
  4. Pour the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil into a small frying pan and place over medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts along with the 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often, until the nuts are golden brown. Remove from the heat and transfer the nuts and oil to a small bowl to stop the cooking.
  5. To serve, spread the vegetables out on a large serving platter and drizzle over the tahini. Sprinkle the pine nuts and their oil on top, followed by the za’atar and parsley.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 45 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

28 thoughts on “Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini and Za’atar”

    1. Pine nuts seem to work best with the tahini. Walnuts might work too, but if you can find a small bag of pine nuts (like I did) it’s only $6 or $7. Or since tahini is ground up sesame seeds, maybe toasted sesame seeds? Experiment and let me know what happens!

  1. I got the Jerusalem cookbook as a gift, and I made this very recipe just last week – instant hit. (Secret: even better the next day, as a cold side with lunch. The squash gets sweeter overnight.) I added a little extra lemon juice and water to thin out the tahini sauce a bit.

  2. Looks fab. I have been a vegetarian since age 6, and have never been to a vegetarian dinner party, and didn’t know that they exist. Not in Minnesota, anyway! So, za’atar is to 2013 what macarons are to 2012 and 2012, or so I’m guessing. All of my favorite food bloggers are in love with Jerusalem, and judging by this recipe, I will be too.

  3. Hello !
    I adoooooore this blog but if I might add something : tahini is the sesame paste (inedible by itself). The recipe above is for “tarator”, a main staple in the Middle East and Turkey where you can have it on just about anything. Also used for dipping falafel, on shawarma etc.

  4. What I find really tricky about Ottolenghi’s recipes is what to serve them WITH. This salad looks gorgeous, but it doesn’t seem like something you’d eat a whole plate of and be satisfied; their recipes are so flavoursome just making another recipe to go with it seems strange.

    Oooh a steak would go well with this!

    1. natasja boekel

      Just ate a plate of the salad and am stuffed! But for a proper dinner perhaps add some humus, toasted flat breads and some dipping veg like carrots, celery stalks, cucumber?

  5. I made this for dinner last night… I sauteed some asparagus and mushrooms separately and threw them on top at the end. I also served it all over a bed of quinoa. And I used cashews instead of pine nuts. It was AMAZING! thanks for posting! I will be making this again and again.

  6. Asian Tofu?! Qua?! Anywho, I’m so very late to the Amateur Gourmet party but I really LOVE the blog. I’m a new cook and find it so helpful!


    I’m a sucker for roasted vegetables, particularly during the cold winter month’s when they somehow seem heartier and taste more delicious! Thanks for this recipe!

  8. I made this almost immediately, and am making it again tonight. It’s fantastic and one of my all-time favorites (and my bf’s as well), even given all the substitutions we had to make (I am carless and live in an area where groceries are expensive and exotic spices are nonexistent). Instead of acorn squash, I used butternut; instead of pine nuts, walnuts; and instead of za’atar, a combination of marjoram, thyme, basil, sesame seeds, salt, and lemon juice (no sumac over here either). Like I said, still fantastic!

  9. natasja boekel

    I finally got around to making this and it was yummie. Added some yoghurt to the tahini and sprinkled some feta cheese on top. Thanks for the inspiration

  10. absolutely delicious, easy and so ascetic. I once used slivered almonds instead of pine nuts and it was just as good.

  11. this dish is seriously one of my favorite dishes I’ve ever made -it is so amazingly delicious! Ottolenghi is a genius. @fungifoodie

  12. I’m actually eating it right now as I post a comment – good lord it gets better the longer it sits in the fridge! All the flavors meld – the tahini and zaatar just complement the squash so well!

  13. I looked at it and right away knew we’d love it! Thanks for sharing! Thought it was great! Because most of us peel squash, it might be helpful to note in the ingredients to not peel the squash (or state explicitly in the instructions). As someone else noted, I had to thin the tahini sauce just a little bit more for it to drizzle. And lastly, I didn’t have any sumac to make za’atar so I used some lamb seasoning I had and pulsed it in a little food processor with sesame seeds to make a semblance of it. Worked fine. Was just fantastic! Thank you so much! Will make again and maybe I can track down some real za’atar.

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