Stuffing squash (or stuffing squash INTO something – see recipe here) has to be one of my new favorite ways to gobble up my favorite season, Autumn all year long. This was so good and so decadent but only took what felt like a moment.
The only real struggle was getting the squash open in the first place. After that, it practically made itself!
These can be filled with anything. In my most recent post regarding this recipe on Sep 6, 2022 on Instagram (@allim1980) I used a base of pesto, wild rice (which was pre-cooked per Minute Rice), frozen pre-cooked bell peppers, some leftover Serrano ham from a restaurant and dairy-free mozzarella. You can choose whatever you’d like – these are also fantastic with salmon, spinach and cheese.
You Will Need:
- Butternut Squash (one squash per four people)
- Cauliflower (I get the frozen florets but feel free to get a fresh head of cauliflower if you want)
- Parsnips (I get a bag of five or six, using just about two or so for four people)
- Butter Lettuce (or any kind of baby lettuce you prefer)
- Black Rice (or wild rice)
- Bell Pepper (any color other than green)
- Cheese (optional – I used dairy free mozzarella but you can use mozzarella, smoked gouda, goat cheese… or omit all together)
- Sea Salt / Pink Himalayan Salt
- Pepper (optional)
- Dried Basil
- Olive Oil
- Parchment Paper / Aluminum Foil
- Twine (you can find this in the baking section of most grocery stores)
Prep your veggies by placing some parchment or foil down on a baking sheet, and then on one side in the upper corner add your florets of cauliflower. To that as well, the peeled and chopped parsnips. I used several handfuls of cauliflower florets and two parsnips – though I was only cooking for two people. Measure accordingly and don’t be afraid of leftovers if you make too much. The ratio is two thirds cauliflower to one third parsnips, regardless of how many people you’re feeding. I cut the parsnips down to about bite-sized just so the food processor later on could handle it. I used a two bell peppers and cut them into bite sized pieces as well. These will be going inside the squash so you’ll want them to be small-ish.
Now you’ll want to get into the squash. First, cut off the top and bottom ends of the squash – leave just a bit so when tied together it helps keep the food in.
Decide which end will be resting on itself and trim it so it lays flat. Don’t cut too far into the squash; just enough so that it will lay flat when filled.
Then, take your knife and cut down the middle length-wise so that you have two separate pieces, keeping in the mind the portion you just cut to lay on the bottom. Scoop out the inside seeds and pulp.
Score with your knife, the meaty portion of the squash. Drizzle your olive oil and use your salt and pepper (you can always add more seasoning later so don’t be too concerned at this point but do definitely take the time to add some now) and some dried basil. Rest the squash meat-side up on parchment paper / foil in a baking pan or on a baking sheet (or in a casserole dish).
Lay the squash next to the cauliflower, parsnips and bell peppers. What we want to do is roast the other veggies while we roast the squash BUT, we don’t want them to touch so, place a bit of parchment (or foil) between them.
Preheat the oven to 395 degrees and bake for 35-40 minutes (or until the meat is softened). In some cases I’ve needed to cook for an additional 10 mins. It really depends on how big your squash is. Go ahead and cook for 40 mins, check it to see if its meat is soft and if not, cook for an additional ten.
While that cooks, prep your filling.
I chose to use black rice for my filling’s base. In another post I used a carb-free alternative (see post here). I could have also chosen to use cauliflower rice and perhaps made a broccoli puree (or always a favorite, mashed potatoes) instead. Cook the rice according to the bag – mine said to cook for a half hour however I always need to add another ten which coincidentally has the rice done around the same time as the squash and veggies.
When the squash is done leave it out of the oven until it’s cool enough for you to handle it. (You’ll know it’s done because it’s soft enough for a knife point to penetrate it.)
In the meantime, grab your roasted cauliflower and parsnips and place them, dried basil, salt and pepper in a food processor with two counts of olive oil (and some cheese if you’d like).
Blend until smooth, taste. You can then put that aside and reheat in the microwave when ready to serve.
When the rice is done cooking, take it off the heat. Start scooping out all the meat from the squash that you can without going too far down into the boats of squash. We need some base to hold everything; a basic structure to tie up – so leave about a quarter inch within the squash itself.
Add the meat of the squash and the cooked bell peppers to the pot with the rice. Also drizzle olive oil, your cheese if you chose to use any, and more salt, pepper and dried basil to the rice and squash mixture. Stir.
I also added watercress but you can choose to use baby kale, spinach or omit.
Taste and make sure you don’t need any additional seasonings. And make sure you were generous with your oil.
Now, grab your twine and cut three long pieces. Lay them down on a baking sheet (or back in your casserole dish). Lay the squash over the pieces, keeping them adjusted so there’s an equal distance between each string. The piece you have on the bottom is the one you sliced earlier so it would lay evenly flat.
Scoop the newly added squash, the rice, the salt, pepper, basil and optional cheese (and lettuce if you chose to add it), and put it all along inside the squash.
It’s okay if some falls out and if it towers really high. The key is to get it as filled as you can. The top will be tied on and cook down… The left over filling will be fantastic the next day either by itself or as a side to the rest of the stuffed squash or over a salad / protein.
Place the other piece of squash overtop and tie, tightly, the twine – trimming off the long ends so they don’t burn in the oven.
Tie tightly and securely.
Place in the oven uncovered at the same temperature and cook for another 15-20 minutes. If when done you’re not yet ready to eat, leave in the oven at 160 degrees so it stays warm.
When you are ready to eat, stick the pureed cauliflower and parsnips in the microwave to reheat while you slice your stuffed squash. We used an electric knife but if you don’t have one a very sharp knife will do just fine.
Decide where you’ll want to cut into the squash. Much like a wellington (wellington recipes here), you’ll want to factor out the amount of people you’re serving and try to keep everything fairly uniform. Because the squash has such a larger head that the rest, you can choose to give that one to someone, and two pieces to the next. I chose the two largest pieces at the end to be my husband and my servings.
Leave the strings on until you’re done slicing – then just cut them away.
We plated with the lettuce on the plate first, the squash belly up to expose the inside and the puree on the side of the plate.
Drizzle with just a bit more of the olive oil to wet the salad. If you choose to, you can place some of the filling on the lettuce and then place the squash if you’d like to add a bit more meal to your serving… We did that as you can see in the above picture.
The squash will stay just fine in the fridge for a few days – and remember to try not to eat the skin! I don’t believe it tastes very good though apparently there’s “no harm in eating” it. Though it does peel away quite easily now that it’s been roasted. If you want a squash that has an edible (and tasty) skin – try a delicata squash: here is a link with further information on squash skin.