This is a “top 10” for my kids. I put whatever soft veggies I have in the refrigerator into it – here I use eggplant but I have also used zucchini and yellow squash. Don’t be afraid to change it up or use what’s in the refrigerator – no need to run out and get something else. When the veggies are all diced and cooked together it’s amazing what they “hate” gets gobbled up without notice or complaint, for us it’s mushrooms, they don’t even notice the mushrooms. You will have extra stuffing left over, it’s great on pasta, sweet potatoes or rice the next day.
- 1 lb package ground pork
- 1 package of raw sweet Italian sausage, casing removed and crumbled
- 1 small eggplant or ½ a large eggplant (can also use zucchini or yellow squash) – diced small
- 1 package of mushrooms (I use ½ a package of Cremini and shitake but you could use white button as well) – diced small
- 1 cup baby spinach – chopped fine
- 1 Onion – diced small
- 2 garlic cloves – minced or pressed through garlic press
- ½ tsp Smoked Paprika
- ½ tsp Dry rubbed Sage
- 1 tsp Dried Oregano
- 1 tsp Dried basil
- 2 tsp Cinnamon
- ½ tsp Pepper
- ½ cup red wine
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2 – 4 acorn squash
- 1 cup of cooked Orzo noodles (can also use cooked barley, rice, quinoa, or other hearty grain).
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Acorn squash are extremely hard, so use a cutting board, large, heavy knife and don’t be afraid to smack the acorn squash on the counter to get the knife through. Make sure the knife is well embedded in said squash before whacking it on the counter. In a large microwave dish or bowl place the acorn squash face down. Cover with lid or plastic wrap (poke a few vent holes) and cook in the microwave on high for 8-10 minutes. If you use a Pyrex dish, add a small amount of water. When a paring knife slips easily through the back they are cooked. Take them out and turn them face up to cool a bit. Sprinkle with salt and cinnamon. Once cool enough to handle, scoop out ¼ to ½ the flesh out of the shells and put it in a bowl. Rough the rest up with a fork, careful not to make the lining too thin or go through the skin. If you do it will not hold the stuffing.
In a heavy bottom skillet cook ground pork and sweet Italian sausage until browned, breaking them up as they cook, you don’t want any big chunks. Drain the pan and save grease from meat. Take meat out of the pan and set aside. Keep 2 Tbsps of grease in the bottom of the pan. Add in onions and cook until soft and clear, careful not to burn the onion, if you have a high heat stove cook them on medium or medium high. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds or until very fragrant but not brown or burned. Add in diced eggplant, you may need to add a little grease/oil here. Eggplant sucks up a lot of the oil and will start to burn and stick. Once the eggplant starts to soften and get brown, about 5 to 7 minutes, add in the diced mushrooms (or any other vegetable you are using). Cook until it’s all soft and browning, there will be a dark fond on the bottom of the pan, don’t let it burn, but you do want that…it’s your sauce base. Add in herbs and cook for 1 minute. Then add the meat back into the pan. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg to the pan and stir well. Add the wine and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add your broth and stir well to combined all the liquid, meat, and vegetables. Add in the cooked Orzo or grain. Let this simmer on medium low for 5 to 8 minutes. Most of the liquid will be absorbed. Add in the diced baby spinach and mix until spinach looks wilted. Turn off the heat and add in the scoped-out squash to the mixture.
On a foil lined rimmed backing sheet place the acorn squash face up. Add in mixture until slightly mounded. Do not press down on the squash or the skin will break. Once all the squash are filled place in the oven on the middle rack for 5 minutes or until heated all the way through.
Remove and carefully serve.