Delicata Squash Saltimbocca with Pan Scallops
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Delicata Squash Saltimbocca with Pan Scallops is everything wonderful about cooking. SERIOUSLY! If your passion lies within your kitchen, Delicata Squash Saltimbocca with Pan Scallops will inspire you. Savory and crispy fried sage leaves, crunchy and salty almost charred prosciutto, and sweet and crispy caramelized squash. I about swoon. Delicata squash has my heart.
The original version of this dish is saltimbocca alla Romana or “saltimbocca Roman-style” which consists of veal, prosciutto and sage, rolled-up and cooked in dry white wine and butter. Delicata Squash Saltimbocca with Pan Scallops is a recipe that works impeccably with a versatile winter squash prepared in the saltimbocca manner.
Saltimbocca is Italian for ‘jumps in the mouth.’ Although commonly associated with Rome and often referred to as Saltimbocca alla Romana , the dish is actually believed to have originated in Brescia which is where prosciutto is produced, and to have travelled down to Rome over time.
If you are that person who craves crispy, crunchy, savory, salty, and sweet, this is the meal recipe for you.
Delicata squash is a winter squash that just does not get the attention it deserves. While butternut squash and spaghetti squash are crowding center stage, delicata seems to linger behind the scenes. I love its sweet and smooth texture and the ease of preparation. Its small size makes it much easier to handle than other squashes and it bakes up and caramelizes super-fast. When roasted, both the delicata flesh and skin becomes creamy and sweet.
This easy recipe requires only seven prominent ingredients and 15 minutes of prep to produce an uncomplicated main dish dinner.
Given it is now October, fall flavors are in full swing in the Not Entirely Average test kitchen. And we absolutely included winter squashes in the rotation about two weeks ago. With everything that was cooked and baked up, this dish was my favorite. We prepared Delicata Squash Saltimbocca with Pan Scallops and ate it twice to ensure the ingredients could remain consistent. They are. And despite it looking like a Tapas plate, this hearty little dish filled the bellies of grown men. Grown men who reached for seconds and thirds I might add.
Fresh sage will press on in an herb garden well into the fall and long after the more delicate herbs and edible florals have withered. Sage possesses an earthy pungency that compliments wild game and late harvest vegetables beautifully.
The glorious coloration of these ingredients make such a statement on the table, you might just want to plan on feeding this to impress company.
This recipe may also be prepared as a creative appetizer with or without the scallops. For my purposes, this was always going to be dinner. My decision to incorporate the scallops were intentional. I could not very well only serve up “only squash” to a hungry table of eaters. The mildly sweet and buttery flavor of the scallops complimented the saltimbocca impeccably.
A two-bite caramelized MASTERPIECE; sweet and creamy delicata, salty and crispy prosciutto, earthy sage…get ready for a party in your mouth.
If scallops are not your jam, use chicken or pork paillards, or even shrimp if you want to stick with fish. Whatever your choice, it will be pan seared in the exact same way I have specified for the scallops to be prepared. The crux of this light autumn dish is the delicata.
Roasted and caramelized, then paired with a single perfect whole fresh sage leaf and wrapped with salty prosciutto. Yes, the delicata saltimbocca is the star of this show. Everything else is just extra stuff on the plate…
The flavors in this dish resonate on multiple levels, not just one. If you crave the saltiness, consider dusting lightly with a aged cheese once plated. The nuttiness from the cheese mimics salt.
What kind of squash compliments scallops?
So, a little introduction to the delicata squash, you know…in case y’all are not yet acquainted. This little powerhouse of a winter vegetable is easy to cut with a sharp kitchen knife unlike its better-known cousins ‘acorn, butternut and spaghetti.’ Because it is so easy to work with, I actually prefer it. It is a tasty little time saver. Well, that and there is no need to peel it.
The skin of a delicata squash is edible and is absurdly delicious. Roasting the squash is one of the easiest and most flavorful ways to prepare delicata squash and produces a smooth, creaminess in every bite.
Be sure to wash the squash well before roasting. SERIOUSLY, WASH IT. This is extra important because you will be consuming the skin of the squash. I recommend a good scrub with a bristle brush. You cannot and will not bruise it, so scrub well.
…moments before roasting in a scorching hot cast iron pan.
My first affair with delicata was at a local eatery here in Charleston. Our waiter highly suggested a house-made delicata squash gnocchi from the specials list that evening. I was eating meatless at the time, and was agreeable to any sort of butternut squash recipes or squash casserole. I was further intrigued though when he indicated it would come served with a caviar of crustacean and shellfish. Chef did not disappoint.
Sage possesses an altogether earthy pungency that cuts the sweetness of the squash, while prosciutto adds salty notes that bring the entire ensemble into harmonious balance.
How do you cook or roast delicata squash?
Roasting the squash in a super-hot oven coaxes the sugars in the flesh. As the sugars caramelize, a luscious and crispy crust forms. When trimming and preparing the delicata, you want somewhat thick slices. If the slices are too thin, they will cook too quickly. Speed is NOT our friend when trying to establish that rich, caramelized crust. Thicker slices allow for more surface time on the hot baking sheet, thus fully caramelizing before turning the moons to do the same on the flip side.
Out of the oven, I allow them to cool for 15 to minutes. I use my best olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of my cast iron skillet. The cooled squash moons are paired with a single fresh sage leaf and wrapped with a strip of prosciutto to secure the sage. They go seam-side down into the skillet and popped into a 425-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes per side. I like the prosciutto CRISPY, so I go 10.
This method for Delicata Squash Saltimbocca with Pan Scallops incorporates one of my most prized ingredients, Amontillado Sherry. It’s sweet, nutty, buttery, and altogether luxurious.
While the squash saltimbocca are crisping, I prepare a pan sauce of browned butter, torn sage leaves, and Sherry. The sauce is spooned over the plated squash seconds before serving, and the scallops seared in the fond at the bottom of the still hot pan in which the sauce was just made. This is all possible because scallops cook in mere minutes.
If you are using an alternate protein such as a paillard, I may suggest pouring the sauce over the saltimbocca and keeping it in the hot cast iron rather than plating right away. Allow for the paillard to be cooked sufficiently in the sauce pan fond before plating the saltimbocca.
What should I serve with Delicata Squash Saltimbocca with Pan Scallops?
A small spinach and apple salad with snap peas and lemon, and a decanted oaky red, and dinner is altogether glamorous. I considered also serving this dish with boiled and buttered baby potatoes, but I felt that the amount was not warranted on that particular evening.
I think though that if you felt like you needed additional sides, sautéed spinach or buttered baby potatoes with a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten would be a delightful addition.
All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC
Delicata Squash Saltimbocca with Pan Scallops
- cast iron skillet
- 1 large delicata squash or 2 medium, halved lengthwise, seeds and membrane removed, and sliced into 1"thick circles, then halved into moons
- 2 tablespoons olive oil I am using Thea Greek Olive Oil
- 1 ¼ teaspoons Kosher salt divided
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 20 – 25 fresh, whole leaves sage
- ¼ pound prosciutto very thin slices
- ½ cup sweet salted butter
- 2 tablespoons Amontillado sherry
- 1 tablespoon honey optional, for drizzling
- 1 pound large sea scallops rinsed, ** patted very, very dry, and lightly dusted with salt and pepper if desired
for the delicata squash
- Preheat oven to 425° F. Line a 13" x 18" baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Toss the squash moons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and dust with 1 teaspoon of the Kosher salt and the black pepper. Spread out on prepared baking sheet and arrange flat in a single layer. Roast for 10 minutes per side.
- Remove the roasted squash moons from the oven. Do not turn off heat. Allow squash moons to cool for 15 minutes on the baking sheet.
- Coat a large cast iron skillet with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.
- Once squash moons are cool enough to handle, arrange 1 whole sage leaf on each fleshy side of the squash moons; wrap 1 strip of prosciutto around each squash moon to secure the sage leaf. Arrange seam side down in the skillet.
- Place skillet into oven and roast for 6 to 8 minutes per side and allow prosciutto to get very crispy, flipping as necessary.
for the pan sauce and scallops
- While the Saltimbocca are crisping in the oven, prepare the pan sauce.
- Melt the butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. When the milk solids become separated and heavy enough to sink, and the butter has almost no foam left, allow the color to brown slightly, being careful not to leave the stove and leaving to burn. You are looking for a nutty aroma and golden brown color.
- Using the remaining fresh sage leaves, add them to the browned butter. You may add the leaves whole or torn. Allow the leaves to foam and crisp up, about 3 minutes.
- ** NOTE – this recipe specifies 2 tablespoons, but I have found adding 3 to 4 tablespoons and allowing the alcohol to burn off offers a very rich, almost buttery flavor to the finishes dish.
- Remove the pan completely from the heat before adding the Amontillado sherry. Whisk into the sage butter mixture and return to low heat to allow the alcohol to burn off.
- When Saltimbocca have been removed from the oven, pour the pan sauce over the Saltimbocca. You can do this in the cast iron or directly on the serving platter. DO NOT SCRAPE THE FOND FROM THE SAUCE PAN.
- Place the still hot sauce pan back atop the heat and increase to medium high. Immediately add the very well dried scallops to the pan. DO NOT MOVE THEM AROUND IN THE PAN. 2 to 3 minutes per side will allow a brilliant crust to form on the scallops largely due in part to the scorching hot pan and the leftover Amontillado fond that is continuing to caramelize.
- Plate the scallops and the Saltimbocca together, spooning drips of the pan sauce atop both. Drizzle with honey if desired and salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with a full-bodied oaky red, or alternatively, pair with a very green and crisp metal casked Chardonnay.