In this recipe, sweet and smooth acorn squash halves are stuffed with a mix of quinoa, chorizo, kale, onion, green olives, raisins, and garlic. Every bite pops with flavor from the briny olives to the sweet, jammy raisins, spicy chorizo, and herbal notes from thyme and oregano. Ooey-gooey melted cheddar cheese makes for a decadent meal you are sure to love!
Stuffed squash is one of those seasonal meals I look forward to every year! With winter squash at its prime from the fall through the end of winter, there are so many opportunities to try different, delicious combos. This version is a bit different, including ingredients that you might not typically associate with the cooler months. That said, it hits all the flavor notes from sweet to savory and everything in between. Not to mention, the melty cheddar cheese and delicately sweet, caramelized acorn squash is such a delicious combo!
Prepping the squash is just a matter of slicing it in half horizontally and then scooping out the strings and seeds in each half with the edge of a spoon. Then, test how level each squash half is in your pan. They should lie flat so the filling will stay perfectly in place. If the halves are not level, shave down the edges that stick out the most so each half will lie flat. See the pic above for what this looks like.
Then each half is lovingly coated with a bit of oil and generously salted before being roasted, cut side down, in the oven until it becomes soft and is starting to caramelize. While the squash roasts, the filling is prepared.
The filling in this recipe uses smoked chorizo sausages, not the loose Mexican style chorizo. You can sub the ground, loose chorizo, but keep in mind a few things. The first is that the ground chorizo will likely render more fat than the smoked variety. In the pan when you add the onion, you should have about 2 tbsp. of rendered fat. If you use ground chorizo and have more fat than this, drain the excess. Also, depending on the ratio of fat to meat, you may have less meat when using ground which can affect how much filling you have. You should have roughly 1.5 cups of meat in the filling – so add more ground chorizo as needed to get this amount.
This stuffed squash can be prepared ahead – either making just the filling and reserving it or by roasting and stuffing the squashes then refrigerating them until you are ready to serve. If you choose to just make the filling ahead of time, you will be preparing your squash halves, stuffing them, roasting and finally topping with the cheese to finish. If you choose to stuff your squash halves then refrigerate, simply pop them in the oven and roast until the quinoa gets crisp and they are warmed through – about 12 minutes at 400 degrees, then proceed with the final step of adding the cheese and baking until it is melty and delicious.
Cheesy Quinoa and Chorizo Stuffed Squash
Time: about 45 minutes
- 2 acorn squashes, similarly sized
- 1/2 cup dried quinoa
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 3-ounce smoked chorizo sausages
- 1/4 cup sliced green olives
- 1/4 cup of golden raisins (sultanas)
- 1 cup of finely chopped kale (I used frozen)
- juice of half a lemon
- 1 cup of water or broth (veggie or chicken)
- 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
- 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
- pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- salt and some cooking oil
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Slice the acorn squashes in half vertically. Scoop out the seeds and strings with a spoon. Rub the inside of the squash with some cooking oil and season generously with salt.
- Place squash halves cut side down on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes until it is tender enough to easily be pierced with a fork and edges are starting to caramelize.
- Meanwhile, add quinoa, thyme, oregano, raisins, red pepper flakes, and some salt to a pot with a lid. Add one cup of water or broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer, and let cook until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is soft and fluffy, about 15 minutes.
- While the quinoa cooks, slice the smoked chorizo in half and slice again into half moons about 1/4 inch thick.
- Heat a sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. Add a bit of oil just to get things going (chorizo will render more fat) and add chorizo. Let chorizo brown well on one side, then stir and add in onion.
- Cook until onion begins to turn translucent, about 4-5 minutes, stirring every so often. Add garlic and cook another minute.
- Add olives, kale, and lemon juice to the pan. Stir and scrape off all browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook for 5 minutes until kale is soft.
- When quinoa is done, pour into the skillet/sauté pan. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- When squash is ready, stuff each half with the quinoa mixture. Pack the filling in well. There should be a small dome of filling reaching above the edges of the squash. Place back into oven for 10 minutes until quinoa is beginning to crisp up and the squash is caramelized.
- Top each squash half with 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese and return to oven until cheese is melted, 5-7 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes to cool, then serve.