Stuffed Acorn Squash
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Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash — Stuffed with a mixture of Italian sausage, celery, apple, kale, and seasoned with sage, rosemary, and thyme. This is the perfect fall dinner or hearty side dish recipe that’s ready in under an hour! Healthy, easy, full of flavor and texture, and a very versatile recipe!
Savory Stuffed Acorn Squash Recipe
Even those picky eaters in your life will enjoy squash when it’s stuffed with juicy Italian sausage, crisp-tender apples, celery, kale, and seasoned with glorious fall-inspired herbs including sage, rosemary, and thyme.
I love the texture contrast between the acorn squash, the protein, and then all those bits of veggies and apples mixed in. It’s really like little bits of fall-flavored surprises in every bite.
Your house smells like Thanksgiving when this sausage and apple stuffed acorn squash bakes thanks to the herbs used.
For those wanting to serve the sausage stuffed squash as a main course, go right ahead because it’s plenty hearty.
Or if you’d like to make it as a side dish — for example, for your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner — everyone will be in agreement that stuffed acorn squash gets high marks in the comfort food side dish arena.
A bonus is that this healthy stuffed squash recipe is naturally gluten-free, and I provided many alternatives to keep it vegetarian or vegan below.
Ingredients in Italian Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash
For this easy and very fall festive stuffed squash recipe, you’ll need the following common fridge and pantry ingredients:
- Acorn Squash
- Italian Sausage
- Olive Oil
- Black Pepper
- Nuts and/or seeds
- Feta cheese, optional (queso fresco or Parmesan may be substituted)
How to Make Stuffed Acorn Squash
Step 1: After slicing through two acorn squash, spooning out and discarding the seeds, place them cut side down on a baking sheet and roast the squash for 20 minutes or until fork tender.
Step 2: As they roast, in a large skillet brown Italian sausage until it’s done and then remove it from the skillet.
Step 3: Add olive oil and onion to the skillet and cook until the onion has softened before adding garlic.
Step 4: Then add kale, apple, celery, sage, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, and sauté for about 5 minutes.
Step 5: Add the sausage back into the veggie mixture and stir to combine your filling mixture.
Step 6: Evenly fill the four squash halves and bake again for 15 minutes.
Step 7: Top with nuts, seeds, cheese, or any combination thereof that you like and serve your Italian stuffed squash to eager family and friends.
How to Cut an Acorn Squash
Step 1: Slice the stem off the top. This will provide a flat surface for cutting the squash in half when you flip it so that the now flattened side can be in contact with your cutting board.
Accomplish this by using sawing motions to cut. Your other hand (probably left) will be holding the squash steady. Your holding hand should have your fingers curled back like a claw to avoid any encounter with the blade.
Step 2: Place the squash cut side down. After the stem is removed, put that flat side in contact with your cutting board.
Step 3: Cut the squash in half vertically. Now you are working with opposite side up (what I call the butt side) and you will be slicing it half, vertically. This is why it’s so important to have a flat base so that when you’re halving it, it’s not going to wiggle and move around on you.
Start with a firm sawing motion, and continue as you through the squash slowly and deliberately downwards vertically.
Halfway through it may be tough, so with the point of your knife angled down, use your other hand on the handle of the knife to help force the knife through.
Tips for Safely Cutting an Acorn Squash
If you’ve never cut a raw squash in half, here are some safety tips:
- First, be careful! This should go without saying but kitchen accidents happen and I want to help you prevent one!
- Use a sturdy cutting board. Don’t grab that wobbly, flimsy plastic one that jiggles around easily.
- Use a large, sharp knife. Sharpest knives are actually the safest.
Use caution of course at all times and cut through your squash however you see best fit. The tips I’ve shared in the section above are what work best for me but your mileage may vary.
Can I Use Other Squash Varieties to Make Stuffed Squash?
Yes, you sure can! Butternut squash is a commonly used squash for stuffing.
If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a kabocha squash, they’re excellent. They have sweeter and more flavorful flesh than acorn or butternut. I love them and in recent years can find them in my mainstream California supermarkets in the fall and early winter seasons.
Often people confuse acorn and kabocha squash because they are both dark green and round-ish in shape.
The difference is that kabocha tend to be a a more smoothed out round shape with less notable lines and grooves. Whereas an acorn will have the distinct vertical lines and chambers running up and down the outside of it to give it the acorn-looking shape.
You could try your hands with other squash varieties that you have in your area if you know how they roast in general.
Something like a delicata squash wouldn’t be my choice though due to it’s more delicate skin. I don’t suspect it would stand up to being filled and stuffed.
Can You Eat Acorn Squash Skin?
Yes, you can! However, since the sausage and apple stuffed acorn squash is roasted in halves, the skin tends to be quite tough after baking.
So while you can technically eat the skin, I personally don’t for this particular recipe.
What Kind of Apples Are Best?
I used and like Granny Smith or Honeycrisp for this stuffed squash recipe, but any firmer and more crisp apple like a Gala or Fuji are good choices. I peel them, but you can keep the apples unpeeled if desired.
What Kind of Nuts and Seeds Are Good in Stuffed Acorn Squash?
This is really up to you, but for nuts, chopped pecans and walnuts are my go-to’s. Perhaps you have some lingering mixed nuts on hand, go ahead and give them a rough chop and through them in.
I don’t recommend firm nuts chopped nuts such as almonds or even peanuts because they add too much crunch for me, but it’s up to you. However, slivered almonds would likely be just fine.
The obvious choice for seeds this time of year is pumpkin seeds, although sunflower seeds are a good choice.
Alternative Protein Options for Stuffed Acorn Squash
For this stuffed acorn squash recipe, I used ground Italian sausage, just regular and not hot or spicy.
Alternatively you could try the following proteins:
- Hot Italian ground sausage
- Ground beef
- Ground chicken
- Ground turkey
Can I Make Stuffed Acorn Squash Vegetarian or Vegan?
Absolutely! Rather than using any animal-based protein, simply omit it.
If you’re making your stuffed squash vegan, also omit the crumbled feta. Use an alternative vegan cheese, or just omit it.
In order to still give you the heartiness that you’re looking for in a full meal or robust side dish, replace the animal proteins with some or all of the following:
- Cooked quinoa
- Cooked wild rice
- Cooked brown (or white) rice
- Cooked bulgar
- Add additional kale or hearty greens like spinach or Swiss chard
- Add additional nuts or seeds
- Add dried cranberries, craisins, or raisins
- Vegan cheese to garnish
- Croutons to garnish
You will just mix those add-ins in with the filling mixture.
Alternatively, you can sprinkle some on top as garnishes as well as incorporate some in the squash filling mixture when it comes to the questions of the nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. For the greens, keep those stirred into the filling.
How to Store Stuffed Acorn Squash
Rather than trying to store whole or even partially cut into squash in your fridge since they are bulky, I scrape everything all together into a container and discard the skins.
Cute presentation, but too much of a space hog in the fridge.
From there, the extra portion will keep airtight for up to 5 days in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer.
Making and Serving the Sausage Stuffed Squash
Even if you’re not trying to make a veg-version of this savory stuffed acorn squash recipe, one pro tip is to add in some cooked grains to your filling mixture. It’s another layer of flavor and texture contrast which is lovely.
As written, the recipe makes four stuffed squash halves, perfect for a hearty meal in itself that serves four.
However, if you’re going to serve this as a side, you could easily get 8 servings out of it. Meaning half of each squash half per person.
- 2 acorn squash
- ½ pound ground Italian sausage* (See Notes)
- 1 to 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup diced white or yellow onion, finely diced (from about half of a large onion)
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic,finely minced
- 3 cups kale, cleaned and chopped (Swiss chard or fresh spinach okay)
- 2 stalks celery, finely diced
- 1 medium apple, peeled and diced (Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Gala, Fuji, or other firm and crisp apple)
- 2 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped** (See Notes)
- 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped**
- ½ teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped**
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- 2 tablespoon nuts (chopped pecans or walnuts; and/or use pumpkin or sunflower seeds instead)
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese (queso fresco or shredded Parmesan may be substituted), optional and as desired
- Preheat the oven to 400F and check to make sure your top oven rack is placed high enough or remove it to accommodate the squash halves when it comes time to bake them; they'll bake on the center/middle rack.
- Line a sturdy baking sheet with foil or parchment if desired for easier cleanup and spray with cooking spray.
- Slice the squash in half vertically and scoop out the seeds. Repeat with second squash. See Notes*** for my Safety and How-To Tips for slicing squash.
- Place the 4 squash halves flat/cut side down on your prepared baking sheet (so the flesh is face down) and bake for about 20 minutes, or until fork-tender.
- While the squash bakes, to a large skillet, add the sausage and cook over medium-high heat to brown it, about 5 minutes; crumble it intermittently with a wooden spoon to ensure even cooking.
- After it has cooked through, remove it with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl; don't drain skillet.
- To the skillet add the olive oil, onion, and cook over medium-high heat until translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes; stir frequently.
- In the final minute of cooking, add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant; stir constantly.
- Add the kale, celery, apples, sage, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, and cook for about 4 to 5 minutes, or until the kale wilts, and the apples and celery soften. It will look like a lot of kale as you add it, but it wilts down quickly. Stir frequently.
- Turn off the heat, add the sausage back into the skillet, and stir to combine; set aside.
- After 20 minutes of baking or when the acorn squash are fork-tender, scoop out a bit of the flesh from each of the 4 halves to make room for the filling. It's hard to say exactly how much to scoop out, you'll have to eyeball it based on the size of your squash, how hollow or full they are, etc. You can save this hollowed out portion of squash flesh for another use or just nibble on it.
- Place the 4 halves back on the baking sheet and evenly divide the filling mixture between the 4 halves.
- Return baking sheet to the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and evenly sprinkle the chopped nuts and/or seeds, and optional cheese.
- Serve immediately. For any leftover, rather than trying to store whole or even partially cut into squash in your fridge since they are bulky, I scrape everything all together into a container and discard the skins. The extra portion will keep airtight for up to 5 days in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer.
*Alternatively you could try the following proteins: Hot Italian ground sausage, chorizo, ground beef, ground chicken, ground turkey. Or make it vegetarian/vegan by following the recommendations in the body of the blog post for substitution and add-in ideas.
**Dried herbs may be substituted in place of fresh. If using dried, generally speaking, use half the amount of dried that a recipe calls for in place of the fresh. Of course, adjust to your personal taste preferences as desired.
***Safety and How To Slice a Squash Tips:
- Use a large, sharp knife. Sharpest knives are actually the safest.
- First, slice the stem off the top. This will provide a flat surface for cutting the squash in half when you flip it so that the now flattened side can be in contact with your cutting board.
- Accomplish this by using sawing motions to cut. Your other hand (probably left) will be holding the squash steady. Your holding hand should have your fingers curled back like a claw to avoid any encounter with the blade.
- After the stem is removed, put that flat side in contact with your cutting board.
- Now you are working with opposite side up (what I call the butt side) and you will be slicing it half, vertically. This is why it’s so important to have a flat base so that when you’re halving it, it’s not going to wiggle and move around on you.
- Start with a firm sawing motion, and continue as you through the squash slowly and deliberately downwards vertically.
- Halfway through it may be tough, so with the point of your knife angled down, use your other hand on the handle of the knife to help force the knife through.
- Use caution of course at all times and cut through your squash however you see best fit. My tips are what work best for me but your mileage may vary.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 473Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 21gCholesterol: 49mgSodium: 1184mgCarbohydrates: 39gFiber: 10gSugar: 11gProtein: 19g
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