With so many beautiful and unusual squashes available right now, we can't seem to come home from the market without at least one new variety to try! Happily, stuffed squash is one dish that will work for just about any squash we happen to pick up. We don't really need a recipe - just a few basic steps and dinner almost makes itself!
One squash the size of a grapefruit or a little larger is usually enough for two people. All these instructions are written with this in mind, but it's easy enough to multiply everything to feed more people. In fact, stuffed squash is an easy and elegant dish to serve at a dinner party, particularly since it can be easily adapted to for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians.
For one great example, check out our recipe for Quinoa Stuffed Sweet Dumpling Squash.
1. Prepare and Cook the Squash
Pre-heat the oven to 375°F.
Wash the outside of the squash to remove any dirt or loose particle, then cut it in half through the stem using a very sharp knife. Use a slicing motion rather than a chopping motion to saw through the tough skin and flesh. Scoop out the sides and fibers from the inside hollow.
Rub the squash halves all over with olive oil and sprinkle the insides with a little salt. Lay them cut-side down in a shallow baking dish and pour about 1/4 inch of water into the bottom of the pan.
Put the squash in the oven and roast until the the squash is completely tender all the way through when poked with a knife. This will take 30-45 minutes depending on the type and thickness of the squash. Carefully remove the squash using spatulas and pour off the water. Return the squash to the baking dish cut-side up, so they look like bowls.
2. Prepare the Filling While the Squash is Roasting
Now comes the fun part! The filling can be just about anything you can imagine and can also be a great way to use up stray vegetables and other ingredients lingering in your fridge and pantry.
We follow this basic formula:
1 Cup Grain + 1/2 Cup Meat/Other Protein + 1 Cup Veggies + 1-3 Teaspoons Herbs/Spices
You want about one cup of cooked grain - brown, white, or wild rice, quinoa, farro, barley, bulgur, etc. For most of these grains, that means starting out with 1/2 - 3/4 cup dried grain. For this small amount, we prefer to cook the grain in a large amount of salted boiling water until it's tender and then drain it in a strainer, as we would pasta.
To the cooked grain, add about a half-cup of cooked meat. We love sausage for its sweet-spicy flavor and chewy texture. Hamburger, ham, slab bacon, shredded pork or chicken, or even ribbons of prosciutto would also be good. For vegetarians, think about baked tofu, cubes of seitan, or sautéed mushrooms.
Next, add about a cup of cooked vegetables. We almost always use an onion as the base and add whatever other vegetables or greens we have on-hand. Cook them just until they're soft and fragrant.
Finally, add your seasonings! Think about the other flavors going into your stuffing and choose herbs and spices to match. For fresh herbs like sage, thyme, or rosemary, we add about a tablespoon, minced. For dried spices, we start with 1 teaspoon and go from there. As always, taste the finished stuffing and adjust the seasonings as needed.
Oh, and the extras! We love extras! Toasted nuts, dried fruit, and cubes of cheese add wonderful flavor and texture, especially if you don't have quite enough of one of the other components.
3. Stuff the Squashes
Season the well of the squash with salt, pepper, and a bit of whatever seasonings you've used in the stuffing. Sometimes, we also like to rub the inside with brown sugar!
Pack the filling into the squashes until they're completely filled. Tent the baking dish loosely with foil and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes until the stuffing is warmed throughout.
If desired, sprinkle a little shredded cheese on the top before digging in!
Stuffed Squash: Recipe Template Summary
1 squash, grapefruit- to cantaloupe-sized (1-3 pounds)
1 cup cooked grain
1/2 cup cooked meat or other protein
1 cup cooked vegetables
1-3 teaspoons herbs or other spices
1/4 cup extras, like nuts or dried fruit
Bake the squash at 375°F. Meanwhile, prepare and combine the rest of the ingredients. Stuff the squashes and bake an additional 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and enjoy!
What are you favorite stuffings for squash?
(Image: Emma Christensen)