A medley of hearty and comforting ingredients came together for this surprisingly easy stuffed acorn squash recipe. And with the recent return of blustery temps, this dinner winner hit the warmth cravings head on! The best part about making this dish is that you probably have everything you need already in your pantry, fridge and freezer – just buy yourself a few acorn squashes! We also love the versatility: you can use bulgur, barley or quinoa, lentils or beans, mushrooms, ground beef, or sausage. It all works!
2-3 medium size acorn squash, cut in half, seeds removed
2-6 tablespoons of olive oil (used at various steps in recipe)
1 large brown onion, diced
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup of farro (or bulgur or barley or lentils)
1 lb. ground turkey (or ground beef or minced Italian sausage)
2-3 tbsp of broth or water, if needed for dryness (see below)
1 jar of Due Cellucci Arrabbiata sauce (you may not use whole jar)
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp of dried Italian seasoning
1 tsp each of sweet and smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional heat)
1 bunch of kale, ribs removed and finely chopped.
1/2 – 3/4 cup of grated parmigiano reggiano
1/2 cup or more of shredded whole milk mozzarella for topping
*optional if you have on hand: dried currants or golden raisins (chopped) and pine nuts. These two ingredients are delicious add-ins! About 1/3 cup of each.
Preheat the oven to 400oF
- Cut acorns in half. Remove the hard stem from the tops with the blunt side of a knife or simply cut a slim sliver off the tops altogether. Also for the top halves: scoop out a little extra flesh to get a deeper well for the stuffing, remove seeds. The bottom halves, simply scoop out the seeds and take a small sliver off the outer bottoms, so that the halves sit upright in a casserole dish (any removed flesh bits can be chopped up and added into the overall mixture).
- Pour a little olive oil on the halves and rub inside and out. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lay all halves, cut side down on a parchment covered sheet tray. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove and set aside. You want a nice browning on the cut sides, but really we are partially pre-cooking the squash to about 3/4 of the way done.
- While squash are baking, cook the farro to package directions in a pot of salted boiling water. You want a chewy, slightly al dente farro – rinse and drain at about 3/4 or more of the way done, a soft chew. Set aside to drain and cool.
- Add diced onion to a large sauté pan, on medium flame, with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Cook for 5 minutes or so to a soft golden translucent, stirring occasionally. Add in minced garlic. Cook for another minute, continue stirring.
- Add a little more olive oil and the ground turkey (or beef or sausage), brown the meat, about 5-8 minutes, breaking up any large bits. Here you can also add in Italian seasoning, salt and pepper, both paprikas, and red pepper flakes.
- Add the cooked farro, stir well and cook for another minute or two. Again, taste for seasoning, adjust accordingly. If pan feels too dry, add in more oil and/or a couple tablespoons of broth or water.
- Add about 3/4 of a jar of preferred Due Cellucci sauce (we used arrabbiata) and tomato paste. Stir well and taste. Continue simmering on a medium/low flame for 3-5 minutes.
- Add chopped kale – we like Tuscan lacinato kale (you can use spinach or other preferred greens) – stir all well, simmer another minute. Taste everything for seasoning. No more salt though, until you add in the parm and can determine overall saltiness.
- Turn off flame. Let mixture cool for a few minutes and then add in the grated parm and mix well. Last taste!
- Scoop filling into each acorn half, creating a nice mound. Place in casserole dish and fill the rest. Top each with with shredded mozzarella.
- Place casserole into 400 degree oven and bake until cheese gets bubbly and golden brown. About 10 minutes. Turn casserole half way through for even cooking. Serve with a simple side salad or grilled veggies of choice.
The other great part of this recipe is that more than likely you will have extra stuffing mixture left over, which freezes beautifully for the next time you might get the hankering to stuff a pepper or a zucchini. Or just heat the leftovers with pasta for an improvised “bolognese” of sorts!