Rustic Quinoa-Stuffed Acorn Squash
By: 
Dish Type: Lunch, Dinner
Cuisine: Gluten-free, Vegetarian option
Ingredient prep: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Makes: 4 servings
 
Whether you make this meatless or use your favorite sausage, it's packed with tons of flavor (and protein). You can also keep it nut free or dairy free, if need be.
Ingredients
  • 2 acorn squash
  • 2 T butter, melted
  • 2 ¼ t Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 oz. pancetta in ¼” chunks
  • Up to 1 T olive oil
  • 2 vegetarian sausage links (or raw chicken sausage)
  • 1 carrot, ¼” dice
  • 2 stalks celery, ¼” dice
  • 1 shallot, ¼” dice
  • ½ C dry quinoa, thoroughly rinsed
  • ¾ C vegetable stock
  • About 7 sprigs of thyme, tied in a bundle with kitchen twine, or ½ t dried thyme
  • 1 large sage leaf, finely chopped
  • ½ t dried oregano
  • 1 heaping T capers, roughly chopped
  • 1 ½ T balsamic vinegar
  • 2 T toasted pine nuts
  • 1.5 oz. finely shredded parmesan
Make It
  1. Preheat oven to 450 (F). Wash and dry squash, halve lengthwise, scoop out seeds, and brush cut sides and cavities generously with melted butter. Season liberally with salt and pepper, and place face down on a rimmed sheet pan. Add 1 tablespoon water to the pan and bake 30 minutes, until easily pierced with a paring knife and the skin is beginning to wrinkle.
  2. While squash roast, prepare stuffing. Add pancetta to medium saucepan and turn to medium low heat, stirring occasionally until almost all fat has rendered, about 20 minutes. While pancetta cooks, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a small nonstick or cast iron skillet. Add crumbled sausage (see note), and cook until browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove to a bowl and set aside. When pancetta is done, remove to the same bowl as sausage using a slotted spoon, leaving as much fat in the pan as possible.
  3. Return pancetta fat to medium high, and add a little olive oil if the pan looks dry. Add carrots, celery, shallot, and ½ t salt, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes (any liquid should be evaporated). Add quinoa and cook, stirring constantly, about a minute, to toast and prevent clumping while it cooks. Add broth, thyme bundle, and ¼ t salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes, uncovered, until fully cooked. Turn off heat and remove thyme bundle. Add sage, sausage and pancetta, dried oregano, capers, balsamic vinegar, pine nuts, most of the parmesan, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper (seasoning to taste). Stir until well mixed.
  4. After squash are done, reduce oven temp to 375. Turn the acorn squash halves cavity up and transfer to a deeper baking dish that will hold all the squash halves as snugly as possible. Use a spoon to carefully scoop out some of the squash flesh, leaving about ½" thick layer lining the skin. Set aside extra flesh for later use (see blog post for ideas). Spoon ¼ of the quinoa stuffing into each squash, pressing it down slightly so it doesn’t spill out. Bake about 15 minutes, until squash are very soft. To serve, sprinkle with grated parmesan.
Notes
If using vegetarian sausages, crumble before adding to pan. If using chicken or other sausage with casing removed, add whole links to pan and break up as they cook. Don’t use pre-cooked meat sausage—it won’t crumble.

Adaptations:
Meatless - omit pancetta; omit sausage or use vegetarian sausage; use butter to cook vegetables
Dairy free - omit parmesan; substitute nutritional yeast for added "cheesy" flavor if desired
Vegan - omit pancetta and parmesan; ensure that vegetarian sausage is vegan as well or substitute mushrooms; cook vegetables in olive oil
Vegetarian - omit pancetta and ensure parmesan and sausage are vegetarian
Nightshade free - confirm ingredients in sausage; omit shallot; ensure stock is nightshade free or substitute water or homemade
Nut free - omit pine nuts; substitute toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds, if permissible
Recipe by Natural Comfort Kitchen at http://www.naturalcomfortkitchen.com/rustic-quinoa-stuffed-acorn-squash/