Creamy butternut squash polenta with spicy wilted spinach

Creamy butternut squash polenta with spicy wilted spinach

I love creating recipes that are both healthy and super-flavorful. And if they’re quick and easy to make as well, then I know I have a winner on my hands.

Today’s dish is just that: a winner!

It’s healthy for sure: the butternut squash, corn and spinach are packed with good-for-you vitamins and minerals as well as being low in calories.

It’s loaded with flavor: the butternut squash is sweet and pleasing, the corn is wonderfully nutty, and the spinach, wilted with both hot and sweet Hungarian paprika, delivers shots of spice and earth in each little mouthful.

And it’s quick and easy to make, to boot! If you have the butternut squash purée made ahead of time (or use a good brand of organic pumpkin or squash purée), the dish comes together in 20 minutes — all right, 25 minutes tops!

As a last touch, I drizzle the whole thing with toasted pumpkin seed oil. It’s one of my favorite flavor boosters for winter recipes. It’s dense, inky-green and fabulously nutty…. A little goes a very, very long way.

Food & wine pairing: Chardonnay with butternut squash polenta and spicy wilted spinach

White wine iconWith this dish, you can go two ways: The first option is to serve a full-bodied white wine – like a Chardonnay that has spent a little time in oak barrels; or a luscious, fragrant Viognier. But you could also serve a low-tannin red wine – like a Gamay from Burgundy.


Butternut squash


Creamy butternut squash polenta with spicy wilted spinach

serves 4
active time: 30 min

For the polenta

  1. 3 cups spring water
  2. 1 cup vegetable stock
  3. 1 cup corn grits for polenta
  4. 1 cup butternut squash purée
  5. 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  6. 1 tablespoon crème fraîche
  7. 1 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
  8. freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the wilted spinach

  1. 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  2. 2 large garlic cloves – skinned and finely chopped
  3. 1/4 teaspoon hot Hungarian paprika
  4. 1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
  5. 8 oz (225 g) baby spinach – rinsed and spun dry
  6. 1/4 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
  1. Toasted pumpkin seed oil as garnish

  1. Step 1: Bring the water and broth to a boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. As soon as the mixture boils, add the corn grits. Whisk vigorously until the mixture starts to thicken. Reduce the heat to medium and gently simmer the polenta, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes until it is thick and al dente. Add the butternut squash purée, parmesan, crème fraîche, salt and black pepper. Stir well until well incorporated. Remove from heat and keep warm.
  2. Step 2: Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Add the oil, garlic and both paprikas. Sauté for 30 seconds to 1 minute until the garlic softens, but doesn’t brown. Add the spinach and salt and toss until just wilted. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Spoon the polenta into bowls. Top with the wilted spinach and a spoonful of the juices. Drizzle with the pumpkin seed oil and serve immediately.

Creamy butternut squash polenta with spicy wilted spinach

main course, polenta, butternut squash

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38 Comments

  • Reply laurileeshealthycooking January 2, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    Great combination of flavors and textures. Yummmy!

  • Reply Denise June 22, 2012 at 11:57 am

    I have enjoying polenta this year and can’t wait to try this recipe! Butternut may not be quite in season but it is one of my favorites. I love all the other winter squash too. It makes me long for fall. I am so happy you visited my litttle blog because all of your recipes looks so wonderful!

    • Reply Viviane June 22, 2012 at 7:03 pm

      Thank you for stopping by and for your lovely comment Denise! So glad you’re a fan of polenta… And butternut squash!

  • Reply Melissa V February 16, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    This recipe was fantastic! I made it for my husband and his first question was “How much butter is in this – it’s so rich!” I was able to happily reply “none”. Thank you for the great instructional video as well. I look forward to making more of your delicious recipes!

    • Reply Viviane February 17, 2011 at 9:22 am

      Melissa! Thank you so, so much for stopping by and sharing your experience – you have no idea how much it means. I am thrilled that you enjoyed the polenta recipe and that your husband did too! I always strive to get the maximum flavor out of ingredients, with the least amount of fat or richness possible. It is all about honoring the deliciousness of the vegetables and cooking them with tenderness and finesse. Thank you again and happy cooking!

  • Reply cookinginathens September 23, 2010 at 12:57 am

    Oh my gosh Viviane!! I am obsessed with homemade creme fraiche (one of the first things I taught my kids how to make) and was delighted to see your new post on the subject. Then at the bottom I found your link to the squash/polenta recipe. I couldn’t believe it! I have a massive amount of cooked butternut squash in my fridge (a friend gave me a huge one from her garden yesterday) and a package of polenta sitting on my counter since I want to cook it today. I was thinking about what to make and voila! here you are. This looks absolutely fabulous. Thank you!

    ps Yesterday I spent about 20 minutes playing on the web trying to find a new and inspiring use for the cooked butternut squash. Didn’t want soup, didn’t want puree, didn’t want any of the regulars… In the end I didn’t find even ONE recipe that really captivated me. Obviously I will be checking your site FIRST from now on!

  • Reply Kip July 27, 2010 at 3:09 am

    Looks delicious! I’m going to sub soy yoghurt and lemon for creme fraiche and cheezely for parmesan. I will never get enough of spinach in this life. Cheers for the recipe!

  • Reply The Chickenless Chick January 22, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Yum! Love the addition of the pumpkin seed oil!

  • Reply carli January 21, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    I just have to thank you for this post! I made this for dinner tonight and WOO-HOO (shouts and cheers), this was awesome! And…how fast and easy! I seriously had this beautiful, elegant dinner on the table in 15 minutes.

    I’m also SO grateful that you introduced me to the pumkin seed oil. How delicious is that?!?!? I can’t wait to have a salad with it!

    Thanks again. LOVE this (and my family did too)!

  • Reply Debi (Table Talk) January 16, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Layers of color and texture~the pumpkin seed oil is a fantastic addition!

  • Reply Mrs. L January 15, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    I’m currently all about butternut squash. What a lovely recipe to try!

  • Reply Katerina January 15, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    This sound amazing, what a great idea, I love polenta!

  • Reply Anna January 14, 2010 at 10:35 am

    It Looks great and must taste wonderful.

  • Reply lisaiscooking January 14, 2010 at 9:16 am

    This sounds wonderfully healthy and perfect for cold weather! The pumpkin seed oil drizzle is a fantastic addition.

  • Reply Meg Houston Maker January 14, 2010 at 6:47 am

    This is a terrific use of leftover cooked squash. A keeper! The wine pairing sounds wonderful—perfectly balanced with the strong, sweet, slightly pungent dish. Cheers!

  • Reply cavemancooking January 14, 2010 at 3:08 am

    This looks absolutely amazing, Viviane!

  • Reply foodieforager January 13, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    I love this! Will try thsi week for sure!!!

  • Reply Pete January 13, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    This sounds absolutely amazing. Will have to give it a try!

  • Reply Choclette January 13, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    I am so liking the sound of this one – love squash and haven’t eaten polenta for a long time. Also have a bottle of pumpkin seed oil in the cupboard that I keep forgetting is there, so no excuse – in fact I don’t need one. Thank you for this great idea.

  • Reply Solange January 13, 2010 at 11:49 am

    wow. it looks amazing! i must try it as soon as possible!

  • Reply Vegetable Matter January 13, 2010 at 11:04 am

    What a beautiful dish. Pumpkin seeds were just named one of the super-foods for 2010, with tons of nutrients packed in those little seeds. I’m guessing the oil is equally nutritious, plus the taste is hard to beat.

  • Reply tastyeatsathome January 13, 2010 at 10:59 am

    This sounds awesome! I just used my butternet that’s been sitting in the house forever last night – now I need another one!

  • Reply wasabi prime January 13, 2010 at 10:55 am

    This looks so velvety-rich and delicious! I like cutting the polenta with butternut squash. I love sides like these, but they often require a lot of starchy items and we’re one of “those people” with our protein, so I’m always looking for ways to mix things up. I love polenta and the added flavor of the squash would make it that much more of a treat!

  • Reply Drick January 13, 2010 at 10:42 am

    yes, a winner for sure – such a great and flavorful recipe … beautiful looking to boot…

  • Reply Beatrice January 13, 2010 at 10:28 am

    This sounds really, really good — I can see how it could easily become a staple.

  • Reply Noelle January 13, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Beautiful recipe and picture!

  • Reply Serena @ Seriously Soupy January 13, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Incredible recipe. I love polenta, but this recipe really kicks it up a notch with the butternut squash and spinach. Can’t wait to test this out!

  • Reply Divina January 12, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    The dish is just beautiful. I love the pairings of the three and they come out beautifully.

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