Last year, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin soup and pumpkin doughnuts dominated chain menus as LTOs and seasonal offerings. This year, it’s all about squash. Although pumpkin and butternut squash are not that far apart in texture, color or flavor, menu developers are using squash in stepped-up preparations. Datassential’s INSIDER reports on some of these on-trend items.
- Panera Bread’s new Vegetarian Autumn Squash Soup is a combo of pumpkin and butternut squash simmered in vegetable broth with honey, apple juice, cinnamon and a touch of curry, then finished with cream and roasted pumpkin seeds. The flavor is complex and the texture, silky and comforting. I know—I had a cup the other day when the weather turned blustery. It hit the spot.
- First Watch, the breakfast-and-lunch concept, is also offering a Butternut Squash Soup, but its Roasted Butternut Squash Quinoa Bowl is more interesting. It combines several hot trends: Roasting as a technique to maximize flavor; quinoa as a gluten-free grain alternative to rice and noodles; and the popularity of bowls as a base for smaller servings of protein and tasty garnishes like candied walnuts.
- Granite City Food & Brewery introduced Butternut Squash Ravioli—a dish that has its roots in fine dining. This version is stuffed with seasoned butternut squash puree and sautéed with Italian sausage, white wine, garlic, red onion, Parmesan cheese and fresh sage in a cream base.
- Romano’s Macaroni Grill is serving up a squash-centric pasta prep, too. A seasonal menu addition is Butternut Asiago Tortellaci. It features four cheese stuffed pasta with roasted butternut squash, crispy prosciutto, truffle cream and pumpkin seeds. High-end ingredients combine with autumnal flavors to take this dish up a notch or two.