If you are lucky, you will get a crisp, caramelized layer of couscous at the bottom of the pan. It doesn’t happen every time, but it will be totally delicious without it.


  • 26 oz. butternut squash, skin on, seeded, cut into 3/4" wedges, then halved crosswise
  • 3 tsps ground cinnamon
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 7 tbsps olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • 2 large onions, 1 cut into 1/2" rounds, 1 finely chopped
  • 2-½ tsps superfine sugar
  • ¼ tsp chile flakes
  • 4 whole star anise
  • 3-½ cups crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3-½ cups water
  • 250 g pearl couscous, (1-2/3 cups)
  • 250 g baby spinach, (scant 6 cups)
  • ¾ cup cilantro, (15g)


1. Preheat the oven to 475˚F/230˚C convection. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Toss the squash with 1 tsp of the cinnamon, one-fourth of the garlic, 2 tbsp of the olive oil, 3/4 tsp salt, and a good grind of pepper. Spread out on one of the prepared baking sheets and bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and nicely browned.
2. Meanwhile, place the onion rounds, keeping them intact, on the second prepared sheet and drizzle with 1-1/2 tsp olive oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp of the sugar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Bake for 18 minutes, flipping the rounds halfway through, or until softened and deeply charred. Keep warm.
3. While the vegetables are roasting, put 3 tbsp olive oil into a large sauté pan, for which you have a lid, on medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and star anise and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes, or until softened and browned. Add the remaining garlic and remaining 2 tsp cinnamon and cook for 30 seconds or more, or until fragrant. Add the chile flakes, tomatoes, tomato paste, remaining 2 tsp sugar, 1-1/2 tsp salt, and a good grind of pepper. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring often, until thickened, then pour in 2 cups of the water and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the sauce is thick and rich. Measure out 1-2/3 cups of sauce (leaving the star anise in the pan) into a separate saucepan and keep warm.
4. Meanwhile, add the couscous to the sauté pan and mix well to combine. Add the remaining 1-1/2 cups water and 1/4 tsp salt and bring to a boil on medium-high. Cover, decrease the heat to medium, and let cook for 30 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the edges of the couscous have crisped up.
5. Put 1 tbsp olive oil into a large frying pan on medium-high heat. Add the spinach, 1/8 tsp salt, and a good grind of pepper and cook until barely wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and set aside.
6. Top the couscous with the reserved sauce, squash, and spinach, layering as you go, and finish with the onion rounds. Drizzle with the remaining 1-1/2 tsp olive oil and serve warm.


Yotam Ottolenghi


4 servings




European : Mediterranean