I love squash, and acorn squash is delicious. But an acorn squash can look intimidating. So let’s have a look at a great recipe.
Ingredient List for the Dish
- 3 acorn squash (about 4 lbs or 2 kg)
- 1 lbs. mild sausage (0.5 kg)
- 1 Onion (about 0.25 lbs or 0.2 kg)
- 1 apple (1.5 cups or 0.25 lbs or 0.2 kg)
- 4 cloves garlic (2 tsp jarred minced garlic)
- 3 ribs celery (1.5 cups or 0.25 lbs or 0.2 kg)
- 1 tbsp. fresh thyme
- 1 tbsp. fresh sage
- 1/3 cup panko crumbs (40 g)
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese (40 g)
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- black pepper
- olive oil
Tools for the Job
- chef’s knife
- small knife for peeling if not using a peeler
- Cutting board
- Bowls 4
- Slotted spoon
- Wooden spatula
- Regular spoon
- Dutch oven
- or other large pot
- Baking pan
- Oven mitts
If you have the counter space have your tools out and ready to be used. Also, get out your ingredients. Produce needs to be cleaned and ready to use. It is helpful to prep celery right after purchase. That would include cutting off the root end, washing each rib, and cutting them down to a manageable or snackable size. I cut mine down to fit into my storage containers. This kind of prep will lead to a smooth cooking experience. Frantically looking for the right tool while the food is cooking is not very fun.
- Set the oven to 400F (200C) and check the rack position before the oven is hot. It should be in the middle of the oven.
- Prepare the acorn squash.
- Start by cutting the acorn squash in half. I usually cut through the stem and pointy end.
- Scoop out the seeds and stringy parts, discard this.
- Cut a small amount off of the other side to stabilize the acorn squash.
- Place the squash on the baking pan, hollow side up. Brush the inside of the squash with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper.
- Bake for 30 min. This can be done while preparing the stuffing ingredients.
- Prepare the onion and celery
- Cut the stem end of the onion off and then cut the onion in half through the root end. Place the onion down on the cutting board with the larges surface area facing down. With the knife tip facing the root end make several cuts through the onion. Then make similar cuts through the onion with the knife perpendicular to the root end.
- The celery should be cut length ways down the middle of the rib, and then across to produce small pieces.
- Place both of these ingredients into a bowl.
- Prepare the apple, garlic, sage, and thyme
- Peel the skin off the apple and chop into small cubes. I like to cut around the core and go from there.
- Remove the skin from the garlic cloves. Crush garlic with the knife and chop into small pieces.
- Remove sage leaves from the stem. Roll them together on the cutting board and slice. Remove the leaves from the stem of the thyme and add it to the sage. Cut through all of it, stopping to mound up the herbs to chop through again.
- Put all of this into the next bowl.
- Optional Prep: Put 1/4 tsp of salt, black pepper, and red pepper into a small container to add to the stuffing. This is not a requirement but may help those who are forgetful.
- Prepare the panko crumbs and parmesan cheese
- Grate parmesan cheese. You can use buy grated cheese and use that. Grate until you have 1/3 cup and put into the next bowl.
- Measure out 1/3 cup panko crumbs and add to the bowl with the cheese. Stir together.
- Optional: add extra sage and thyme to this mixture.
- Putting the stuffing all together
- Brown the sausage in the Dutch oven over medium-high heat. This should take 6-10 mins. Remove when cooked though to the waiting bowl.
- Add onion and celery to the Dutch oven. Depending on the sausage you might need to add olive oil. Turn down heat to medium and cook for 4 mins. The vegetables should be softened. The celery often looks a much brighter green.
- Add the apple, garlic, sage, and thyme. to the Dutch oven. At this time you can also add the salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Cook this for 4 mins.
- Add the sausage back to the Dutch oven. Cook for 3 mins. Taste the mixture to check seasoning level.
- Combing it all
- Spoon stuffing into each acorn squash. Top with the panko and parmesan cheese mixture. At this point you have two options.
- You can cook right away in the oven for 15 mins and enjoy immediately.
- Or you can let it cool and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat it. It can stay in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or be frozen for several weeks.
- Reheating in a microwave is not recommended. The texture of the squash can change a lot and not be as desirable.
So how was it?
I enjoyed the end product of this dish. The squash was soft and sweet. The stuffing was savory and fragrant. The fresh herbs make a huge difference in a dish like this. The oils are released when being chopped and change the scent of the whole room when put into the Dutch oven. The combination of sage, apple, and pork is a classic that I will always enjoy. The acorn squash is like a delicious bowl of tasty food and fun textures. Be careful, the does not soften and is not to be eaten. One of the squash halves was enough for dinner for me. But, it could pair well with roasted broccoli and rice. I knew I would only need one half for myself and one for my partner, so the rest went into the freezer for another day. I’m hoping that next year I’m able to grown my own acorn squash. It didn’t go well this past year, we had some issues with pests. I grew one tiny squash that I was still proud of.
How long did it really take?
Most recipes that are similar to this claim it as a 30-40 min recipe. Of course this depends on how confident you are in the kitchen. If your skill level is a little on the low side it will take longer. I spent 5 mins getting out all of my tools, ingredients, and cleaning my produce (my grater was hiding from me). I decided to cut up and sort all of the produce before cooking anything. So, I had the oven heating while I prepped the ingredients. It took me 25 mins to prep the produce and get it into the bowls for making the stuffing. I put the acorn squash into the oven (30min) just before starting to cook the sausage. The stuffing took about 20 mins to prepare. While the squash finish in the oven I cleaned up my dishes and mess from the prep work. When the squash cam out it took nearly 4 mins to fill each squash and top with the panko mixture. The acorn squash were very hot and difficult to more around. The squash then cook for another 15 mins to completion. That is 30 mins of total prep time and 45 mins of cook time. I tend to cut up my produce at a moderate pace, so it might match the pace of someone with less experience. If you have great knife skills you’ll save some time. The total time from start to finish was 55 mins.
But at what cost?
Was that heading dramatic? Yes, and I’m good with that. But what is the cost of this dish? Product price can change based on the season and the region, but I’ll show you what I paid for most of this
- 3 acorn squash — $4.65
- 1 lbs. mild sausage — $3.48
- 1 Onion — $0.79
- 1 apple — $1.00
- 4 cloves garlic — $0.50
- 3 ribs celery — $0.70
- 1 tbsp. fresh thyme — $1.00
- 1 tbsp. fresh sage– $1.00
- TOTAL — $11.32 for 6 servings
- $1.89 for each serving
I did not include the price of the ingredients I already have. Partly because I didn’t want to buy more and also because I forgot to just check while I was at the store (whoops). This is my first post so I’ll probably get better at doing this, who knows. I normally wouldn’t buy my herbs, but the sage in my garden was not a fan of the cold weather and was not available. Parmesan cheese can get expensive, but it is worth the price to get a good one. Nothing compares to a real parmesan cheese with it’s salty goodness. If all you can get is shaky cheese, go for it (please don’t tell me you don’t know what shaky cheese is). Overall I think this price is pretty acceptable for a meal.
And what about the health facts? There is more than one way to calculate cost. It’s estimated to be 525 calories per serving (one half of the squash) with 32g carbs, 32g fat, and 28g protein. Of course this can vary with how much oil is used, the type of sausage, and the actual size of the squash. If you would like to reduce calories you can try replacing the pork sausage with turkey. Or even cutting the sausage in half and replacing it with rice or beans.
I would make this again. There are several ingredients and steps to keep in order, but once the prep work is done everything flows smoothly. The blend of tastes and textures was a nice addition to my weeknight dinners. It feels fancy enough to be impressive to a house guest while not being too difficult to put together, especially because it can be made the day before and baked when needed. I would prefer a little more red pepper, I like the heat it provided to the dish. A good substitution could be sage sausage instead of the mild country sausage I used. I would consider maple, but it might be too sweet. Maybe I’ll try it next time and let you all know how it was. I’ve also considered doing a vegan version. Would anyone like that?
I only cooked up two servings for myself and my partner, we froze the rest. When going back to cooking the others it is best to let the squash defrost before cooking. Bake in the oven at 400F for 15-20 mins, this should be enough time. If you are not sure if it is done use a thermometer probe to check.
Happy cooking everyone!
Let me know if you tried it and what you thought about it.