Some traditions are made to be reinvented, especially when you’re trying to figure out what to do with seasonal staples, like butternut squash and pumpkin. Here, Valencia Group chefs offer two savory suggestions that’ll leave mom surprised – and proud.

Put down the marshmallows and cinnamon – these caramelized squash and pumpkin recipes aren’t your grandmother’s typical side dishes. Inspired by the harvests and palates of San Jose and San Antonio, these two fresh takes, delivered straight from the kitchens of top Valencia Group chefs, will have you looking at these autumn favorites as entrée-worthy ingredients instead of your dinner’s sidekick.

Pomegranate Caramelized Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Rock Shrimp

what to do with butternut squash Ocean Orssten, the executive chef of Terrace at Hotel Valencia Santana Row, puts a new spin on the classic squash ravioli by opting for gnocchi, adding shrimp to celebrate San Jose’s California flavors and pomegranate seeds as a nod to Thanksgiving cranberry sauce.

Serves 4


  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup grated ricotta salata
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 chopped shallot
  • 2/3 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup shaved ricotta salata
  • 1/2 cup rock shrimp
  • 1 handful arugula
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
  • pinch of mace


  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Cut top and bottom off squash, halve it lengthwise, remove seeds, and put halves cut side down on pan. Bake for one hour until squash is caramelized.
  3. Pulse squash flesh, eggs, flour, grated ricotta, salt, and pepper in food processor until smooth.
  4. Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Prepare a large bowl of ice water.
  5. Using a spoon, scoop one tablespoon of squash mixture. With another spoon, form an oval in scooped squash mixture to create one gnocco. Set aside. Repeat until batter is gone.
  6. Drop 10 gnocchi at a time into boiling water. When they float, cook for another five minutes, then place in ice water. Remove gnocchi once cooled, and pat dry.
  7. Repeat step six until all gnocchi are cooked.
  8. Melt butter over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft (about five minutes).
  9. Add gnocchi and cook, turning occasionally until caramelized.
  10. Add rock shrimp, and cook until pink.
  11. Add arugula, and turn off heat.
  12. Finish with pomegranate seeds and shaved ricotta.

Savory Pumpkin “Tamale” Griddle Fritters

what to do with butternut squash Texas’ penchant for smoky-sweet entrées serves as the inspiration for this dish from Executive Chef Anthony Mesa of Citrus at San Antonio’s Hotel Valencia Riverwalk. Smoked bacon, pulled quail, and a touch of spice make these pumpkin fritters worthy of the prime real estate at the holiday table.

Serves 2


  • 4 ounces masa flour (sifted)
  • 3 ounces all-purpose flour (sifted)
  • 1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 ounce mild chili powder
  • 1/4 ounce garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder (toasted)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder (toasted)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 ounces smoked pork bacon (minced)
  • 3 ounces whole unsalted butter
  • 10 ounces pork stock
  • 4 ounces pumpkin puree
  • 3 large whole eggs
  • 6 ounces roasted quail breast (pulled)


  1. Toss masa flour, all-purpose flour, paprika, sea salt, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, and coriander together. Set aside.
  2. In an appropriate pan, render minced bacon until it begins to brown. Allow to cool down slightly for next step.
  3. Combine pork stock, pumpkin puree, and butter with bacon and bacon fat. Heat mixture until butter is fully melted.
  4. Whisk in flour mixture over low heat. Whisk until well incorporated and flour is cooked out.
  5. Remove from heat. While still hot, whisk in one egg at a time.
  6. Batter should be slick and resemble pâte à choux. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  7. Fold in the pulled quail confit.
  8. Scoop out batter and shape into small patties. Steam patties for approximately seven to eight minutes.
  9. Sear on hot griddle with bacon grease or duck fat until crispy on the outside.