My ideal Saturday mornings consist of taking a little time (maybe an hour or two) to flip on the Food Network, drink my coffee, and scroll through Pinterest. Even though I do these things separately throughout the week, there’s nothing like the slow, quiet luxury of doing them all at once for an our or two on Saturday morning. This past weekend I drifted across a pin on stuffed acorn squash. I immediately thought of my mother. Growing up, we always had the same squat, beige toaster oven on the counter top. Besides toast, the only things I ever saw my mother pop into it were store-bought, frozen mini-pies and acorn squashes that she cut herself. The preparation was minimal – salt, pepper, and a pat of butter, but she LOVED that acorn squash. Whereas many people might cook it with brown sugar or marshmallows, my mother liked to make squash savory instead of sweet – a preference I carry with me to this day.
Though the recipe on Pinterest was a vegetarian one, I decided it would be exquisite with some crumbled sausage. I like mild Italian sausage because a little goes a long way. I can buy one pack of sausages, remove what I need from the casing and save the rest to add to soup, sprinkle into mac n cheese, etc. It is versatile, and the heat from the seasonings pairs well with any rich dish.
Acorn Squash is fairly easy to prep. Slice open each gourd, scoop out the seeds and strings, and then slice a little off the round side of each half so that they won’t tip over when flesh-side up. Rub the flesh with oil (or spray) and season liberally with salt (and pepper if desired). Recipes differ on the time and temperature for roasting acorn squash, but one thing they almost all suggest is to line your baking sheet with tin foil and place the squash flesh-side down. Some recipes suggest 400 degrees; others 375 – base this on how hot your oven usually gets. Mine runs hot, so I chose 375. The cooking time varies also, but that probably has to do with the size of your squashes and the temperature of your oven. Bank on something between 30 minutes and an hour. I ended up taking mine out at 45 minutes at 375. They are done when the flesh can be pierced easily with a fork.
For the filling, I cooked up 1 lb of mild Italian sausage (you could cook less, but then you might want to add another veggie component like mushrooms or kale or grain like quinoa so you’ll have enough stuffing). I put the sausage aside and used the pan to cook down small diced onions and garlic. I combined these and stuffed the roasted acorn squash halves with them. I topped each one with Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, and a small pat of butter (you could substitute a drizzle of oil for butter if you like). Then I broiled it for 2 minutes to melt the cheese and butter. The beauty of this recipe is that you can stuff the acorn squashes with whatever you like or have on hand. After tasting my version, Mr. Foodie and I decided it would have been absolutely perfect if we had added a few diced tomatoes to stuffing for a little acid and sweetness. Even without the tomatoes, the squash was rich and filling. The heat of the sausage paired well with the creamy flesh of the acorn squash. The cheese and bread topping added texture and a nutty bite.
Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash
3 Acorn Squashes, cut in half
Olive Oil, salt, and pepper
1 lb mild Italian sausage, removed from casing
1 small diced onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1-2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
Bread Crumbs for topping
1-2 Tbsp butter for topping
Preheat oven to 375 (or 400) and line baking sheet with tin foil. Oil prepped Acorn Squash Halves and season liberally with salt and pepper. Place flesh-side down on lined baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes to an hour. They are done when flesh is easily pierced with a fork. In the meantime, cook up the sausage, crumbling with a wooden spoon. Set aside and use the pan to cook the diced onion and garlic until softened. Mix the onions and sausage together for stuffing. Fill each roasted acorn squash half with sausage mixture. Top all with Parmesan, sprinkle of bread crumbs, and pat of butter. Broil for 2 minutes to melt butter and cheese. Enjoy!