This roasted Delicata squash and kale salad is a healthy side or meal that combines roasted winter squash, kale, ricotta salata, hazelnuts, and a Dijon vinaigrette. Bonus: it’s quick enough to throw together on a weeknight.
Even though I consider myself fairly capable when it comes to wielding a knife in the kitchen, I always hold my breath when attempting to cut through winter squashes such as butternut and acorn. I have yet to lose a finger, but honestly, it’s only a matter of time, which is why Delicata squash has won my affection. Not only is it a hundred times easier to cut, it doesn’t need to be peeled. Here, half-moons of Delicata squash are roasted alongside chunks of red onion until soft and caramelized, then tossed, while still warm, with tender kale, toasty hazelnuts, and salty ricotta salata cheese in a sweet and savory sherry vinaigrette. It’s a salad I could very well eat weekly through the fall and winter without tiring of it (which I say with confidence because I’ve definitely done it).–Sheela Prakash
*What is Ricotta Salata?
Imagine if you pressed salted, dried ricotta cheese until it was firm enough to grate or crumble. Sounds sorta incredible, right? That’s ricotta salata. Milder than feta, it’s similar to cojita or paneer and makes all the difference in salads, tacos, scrambled eggs, and anywhere you want a hit of salty and creamy.
Roasted Delicata Squash and Kale Salad
For the salad
- 1 large (1 lb) delicata squash halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm) slices
- 1 medium (8 oz) red onion halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) wedges
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 medium or 1 large bunch (12 oz) lacinato kale stems removed, and leaves torn into bite-size pieces
- 4 ounces ricotta salata* or feta cheese crumbled (about 1 cup)
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts toasted and roughly chopped
For the vinaigrette
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 small garlic clove grated or minced
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Make the salad
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Adjust the oven rack to the middle position.
- Place the squash and red onion on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil, season with salt and black pepper, and toss to coat. Spread the vegetables in an even layer. Roast, carefully flipping halfway through, until tender and lightly caramelized, 25 to 30 minutes.
Make the vinaigrette
- In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, Dijon, garlic, a generous pinch of salt, and a few grinds of black pepper until combined and emulsified.
- Place the kale in a large bowl. Using your hands, massage the leaves until they feel less stiff, about 1 minute. Whisk the vinaigrette once or twice more to ensure it’s emulsified, then drizzle about half of it over the kale and toss to coat.
- Once the vegetables are roasted, add them to the bowl with the kale. Drizzle in the remaining vinaigrette and toss gently to combine, being careful not to break up the tender squash.
- Add the ricotta salata and hazelnuts. Gently toss once more. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, as needed. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I’m always looking for more ways to incorporate vegetables into my diet (to steer myself away from the temptation of eating carbs and pasta all winter like a bear prepping for hibernation). The perfect vessel: a big, whopping salad.
This one has everything you need to be fully satiated—the toasty hazelnut crunch, salty bits of cheese, ribbons of kale massaged with a light dijon dressing, roasted gourds and onions—without missing out on life’s indulgences. While I would’ve loved a little more caramelization on the vegetables (it would’ve been there with an extra 10 minutes), I can’t complain about this big ‘ol pile of healthy food.
This salad reminds me of the iconic kale salad from the Northern Spy Food Co. that graced my dinner table for the greater part of the last decade, in all the best ways. You have a warm, roasted, winter vegetable that wilts and tenderizes the kale, tossed with crunchy nuts, salty cheese crumbles, and a tangy dressing. However, this salad manages to one-up my favorite by using delicata squash (no having to peel and dice butternut squash or sweet potatoes here!) and introducing red onion wedges to the mix. I don’t know why I’ve never thought to add onions on my own, but they’re delicious here. Even the kale skeptics I served it to wound up loving it, and everyone wants to see it for dinner again very soon.
I found my squash needed just a tad longer in the oven to get the color I wanted, and the dressing needed a smidge more vinegar for that pop of brightness, but these are likely personal preferences. I can never seem to find hazelnuts at markets near me so I substituted almonds, but it’s a very forgiving template that can accommodate whatever you have. Just make it…I guarantee it’s a keeper.
This salad was warm and hearty. I served it as our main course (3 servings). I couldn’t find delicata squash or ricotta salata, but this recipe looked too good to pass up so I used a small butternut squash and feta cheese. I also found chopped, roasted hazelnuts, which cut down on the prep time.
Although I empathize with the author’s concern about losing a finger when cutting winter squash, the skin on the squash wasn’t too tough. I was able to slice it thinly, then into half moons. I made the dressing in a large bowl, poured about half into a small ramekin, then added the kale to the bowl and massaged it.
The dressing, kale, squash, and onions were all prepped about an hour before I roasted the vegetables. The cooking time was accurate (even with a different kind of squash) and the skin on the squash was tender. Next time, I might drizzle the squash with some honey before roasting. I’m looking forward to having the leftovers today for lunch.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
I love a warm salad and this recipe doesn’t disappoint. It’s a little bit comfort food yet still packed full of veggies. There’s a nice textural juxtaposition between the roasted squash and onions, and the crisp kale.
I stuck with the ricotta salata and loved the salty crumbles mixed in with the almost caramelized veggies. I couldn’t find Delicata squash when I was shopping for this recipe, so I subbed in acorn squash. The acorn squash worked well, but I think Delicata would be even better.