Fall has arrived in LA. Well, at least for a few days, according to the forecast. So with the thermometer dipping down into the low 50s at night, I jumped at the chance to make a cozy, comforting dinner.
Walking through the farmer’s market, I decided on stuffed Delicata squash. There was a basketfull at the Frecker Farms table calling to me with their soft, buttery yellow skin. OK, sold.
Next was deciding how to fill the smooth golden boats of sweet flesh. I wanted a filling that complemented but didn’t overshadow the delicate, creamy interior. Ricotta seemed perfect. I picked up several containers of plant-based ricotta at the Misha’s Kind Foods table. Spinach and basil from Country Fresh Herbs and aromatics from John Givens would tie it all together, as well as plant based sausage, for a heartier meal, that I bought at a local supermarket. The rest of the ingredients were pulled from my pantry and fridge. All are pictured below.
The result? My older son said I should open a restaurant. I guess it was a success!
It truly was a lovely contrast of flavors from the sweet squash to the creamy and savory ricotta to the fennel, chewy bite of the sausage to the buttery crisp breadcrumb topping.
Please note that like its name, Delicata squash has a more delicate skin and is easier to slice through with a sharp knife, than its cousin butternut. Makes for a more pleasant preparation experience.
While I used a particular brand of plant-based Italian sausage, as I like the seasonings, I’m sure that any of the brands would work well in this recipe.
There are several separate steps to preparing this dish. It’s helpful to create a mis-en-place. In other words, have all ingredients prepped, in place, in separate bowls and ready to go.
I did not use any additional salt in the filling. I didn’t think it necessary as the packaged products are salted. Season to your taste.
Stuffed Delicata Squash
5 Delicata squash
12 oz Misha’s vegan ricotta (1 ½ containers)
½ cup grated vegan parmesan
1/8 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
Fresh cracked black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, small dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 plant based Field Roast Italian sausages, small dice
3 packed cups baby spinach, stems removed, chopped
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
2 T salted vegan butter, melted
¼ cup grated vegan parmesan
Fresh chopped basil
Set oven to 400 degrees, with the oven rack in the bottom third of oven. Wash and dry the squash. Cut in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds and stringy flesh. Discard. Rub a bit of grapeseed oil all over the squash. Sprinkle kosher salt on the interior. Place squash cut side down on a lined sheet pan and cook for 20 minutes. Turn squash over and cook another 5 minutes. Should be just soft to the touch. While the squash is cooking prepare the filling and breadcrumb topping. In a large bowl stir together the ricotta, 1/2 cup of vegan parm, nutmeg and cracked pepper to taste, until well combined. Set aside.
In a small bowl, stir together the panko breadcrumbs, melted butter and ¼ cup vegan parm. Set aside. In a medium sized sauté pan heat the EVOO. When hot add the onion and turn down heat. Cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the sausage and cook until browned and more crumbly, stirring up so it doesn’t stick to the pan. Add more oil if necessary. Stir in the chopped spinach and cook until just wilted. Stir up everything to well combine. Let cool for 5 minutes. Stir the sausage mixture into the ricotta mixture and combine. Remove the squash form the oven. Put the rack in the middle of the oven. Put the squash in a large glass baking dish, cut side up. Equally fill each squash with the sausage/ricotta mixture. Top each one with buttered panko breadcrumbs. Bake for 15-20 minutes until hot in the center. Turn up heat to broil and cook another 2-3 minutes to brown the top, being careful not to burn.
I served it topped with fresh basil, on a bed of orzo, tossed with vegan butter, vegan parm and lots of cracked black pepper, like cacio e pepe. It would also be delicious on rice pilaf. Enjoy!