Savory cheesecake is a thing. A few years ago, in support of my cookbook Southern Snacks, I appeared on Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family show to make my country ham cheesecake, and everyone was rather surprised (and dubious) of the concept. I won them over however. I love a savory cheesecake – it’s a fabulous party piece. It serves a crowd, can be made ahead, and with a little creative garnishing is showstopper on the table. This perfect autumn version with the rich flavor and bright color of butternut squash is a change-up that will surprise and delight your guests. In addition to country ham, there is a pimento cheese version in my Pimento Cheese the Cookbook, or check out this Crab Remoulade Cheesecake
I buy pre-peeled and sliced butternut squash in the produce section of almost any grocery and it makes this prep super easy. Feel free to peel and cube a whole squash. You need 2 cups of puree in the end. I roast at low heat here because I don’t want the squash to brown or char, just to soften enough to blend into a smooth puree. I roast the garlic in a little foil packet along side and it adds such depth to the finished product. Pick a hearty whole wheat cracker for the crust. Sage is the ideal complement to the fall flavors of butternut, but oregano or chives would work as well.
I like to serve this whole on a pretty platter for guests to dig into and spread on crackers. While wheat or hearty crackers are particularly good, toasted baguette works, or for a change try rye or pumpernickel bread toast points. You can also slice this and serve wedges on individual plates as a spread, or with some salad on the side as a starter or simple meal. A wedge or two on an autumn cheeseboard is also an interesting twist. You can wrap the cake tightly and freeze for up to a month, then thaw in the fridge overnight. If you have two 6-inch springform pans, make two smaller cakes, one for now and freeze one for later.
Savory Butternut and Sage Cheesecake
- For the Filling
2 pounds butternut squash cubes
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
Salt and pepper
8 ounces whole milk ricotta, at room temperature
2 (8-ounce) blocks cream cheese, at room temperature
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage
- For the Crust
5 ounces whole wheat crackers
¼ cup chopped walnuts
5 sage leaves
1 ½ sticks butter, melted
- Start the Filling
- Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Spread the butternut squash cubes on a foil lined rimmed baking sheet and drizzle very lightly with olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Do not let oil pool on the baking sheet. Roast the squash for 45 minutes to an hour until soft but not browned. Meanwhile, put the garlic cloves in a small piece of foil, drizzle with olive oil and wrap the foil into a little hobo packet. Place on the oven rack and roast until the cloves are soft. Cool everything completely, then put the squash and garlic cloves into a food processor and puree until smooth. You need 2 cups of puree.
- For the Crust
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray.
- Break the crackers into small pieces and drop into the bowl of a food processor. Add the walnuts and sage leaves and pulse to crush and combine. When you have fine crumbs, add the melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are evenly moist. Press the crumbs over the bottom and a little up the sides of the prepared pan. Us the bottom of a glass or a measuring cup to press into a tight, even layer. Cook for 15 minutes, then cool completely.
- Finish the Cheesecake
- Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Add the ricotta and cream cheese to the puree in the food processor and blend until smooth. Add the eggs and the chopped sage and blend until completely combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste and blend again. Scrape the filling into the prepared crust and smooth to fill the pan. Use an offset spatula to smooth the top of the filling. Bake for 5 minutes, then lower the temperature to 250 degrees and continue cooking for 45 minutes, until set. Turn off the heat and crack the oven door (I prop it open with an oven mitt) and leave to cool for an hour, then remove from the oven and cool completely. Place a paper towel over the top of the pan (to absorb condensation) then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or up to two days. Remove from the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.