- This stuffed acorn squash recipe is spicy and warm, with a touch of sweet cinnamon. -
The tomatoes and strawberries are almost gone from the farmers markets, replaced by a colorful wash of winter squash. These bulbous little beauties are some of my favorite things to cook; they’re almost as sweet as summer fruit – but without the slam-bam tartness – and their soft, luxurious flesh turns to butter when baked at high temperatures. Add a little dairy and you’ve got yourself a simple, decadent meal.
While I’m an au naturale squash recipe lover, a lot of people believe winter squash on its own to be - gasp! – boring. They want some intensity, maybe even a little heat. Ok, I get it. As a spice zealot myself, I totally get where they’re are coming from. So I’ve got a special treat in store for you spice-craving folks, thanks to the good folks at McCormick.
McCormick Gourmet has a challenge for you, called Go4Gourmet. How it works is this: McCormick is offering up to 4 ingredients and then asking you, intrepid spice lovers, to create your own inspired recipes and then upload your most creative dish to the challenge website. It’s a lot of fun, and I’ve really enjoyed participating.
My contribution to the party is comforting and spicy-sweet, a recipe that perfectly embodies autumn with its warm scarves and fuzzy sweaters. Think of classic stuffed acorn squash, but without the rice. This dish makes a filling of fluffy ricotta, orzo pasta, toasted pecans, and a lovely helping of honey, cinnamon, and chipotle pepper for a little sweet heat. The pecans really make this dish, bringing a touch of smokey crunch to an otherwise lusciously tender recipe.
These stuffed acorn squash make a great side to whatever main dish you’ve got planned, or they can be an awesome vegetarian dinner all by themselves. I recommend starting with 1/4 teaspoon of chipotle powder and then tasting the filling – if you want a little more spice, feel free to add another 1/4 teaspoon to the mix. You’re also more than welcome to increase the honey in the recipe, if that’s your thing. If you’re like me and really, really like honey, you can drizzle your squash with a touch more before you dig in.
- 2 medium-sized acorn squash
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- ¾ cup pecans, divided
- ¾ cup uncooked orzo pasta
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 3 tablespoons honey
- ½ teaspoon McCormick ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon McCormick ground chipotle chili pepper, divided
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Carefully slice acorn squash in half from top to bottom. Use a spoon to remove all seeds and stringy bits. Set the squash, cut-side up, in a baking sheet and brush the exposed flesh with melted butter. Slide into the oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until squash flesh is soft.
- While the squash is cooking, toast the pecans in a skillet over medium-high heat, agitating once a minute to keep them from burning. Toast until they are fragrant and turn a deeper brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely before chopping coarsely.
- While the squash is still cooking, prepare the orzo according to the instructions on the package, making sure to salt the cooking water (about 1 tablespoon). Once done, strain the orzo and set aside.
- Combine ricotta, honey, cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon chipotle, and salt. Stir well and taste. If you’d like a little more heat, add another ¼ teaspoon of chipotle. Gently fold in orzo and ½ cup of pecans, making sure not to mash the pasta.
- Once the squash is done, fill the cavity of each with ¼ of the ricotta filling. Slide the squash back into the oven for another 5 minutes. Serve immediately, topped with more chopped pecans.
Note: This recipe was sponsored by McCormick’s Go4Gourmet challenge.