I love Autumn. I love squash. I love that this dissected squash looks like a heart.
Squash is one of my favourite foods, and it is in abundance this time of year. You can get hold of Butternut all year round in our supermarkets, but in the Autumn months all the colours come out to play. I’m building up my repertoire of squashes this year - Pumpkin for Halloween fun, Hokkaido, Kabocha and now it’s Acorn’s star turn. At least I think that’s what this is? I bought the Acorn squash from my fantastic local grocers The Allotment, in New Cross, not really knowing what I was going to do with it. I was simply enticed by its beautiful colours and cuteness (this one was just 10cm in diameter)
After reading many recipe books, and having a good search on-line I decided to bake and stuff the squash with a filling. It seemed a pity to just cube it up and roast like I would usually do – exactly how I really enjoyed an impossibly hard skinned ‘therefore it took me 20 mins to cut up’ Kabocha a few weeks ago. So – what to fill it with? Lamb mince flavoured with spices and drizzled with tahini dressing for a Middle Eastern influence? Or how about vegetables, Thai curry paste and coconut milk for a Far Eastern influence? In the end I returned to my favourite influence – the Cucina (Kitchen) of Italy.
I’ve named this dish All’Amatriciana since a typical Italian pasta sauce of that name features pancetta (or bacon), onion, garlic, chilli flakes and tomatoes – almost exactly what I’ve gone for here. This is therefore a fantastic gluten-free Paleo way of enjoying those flavours without the use of pasta. I added a drizzle of pesto on top and some pine nuts to finish off the dish with some extra flavour. This simple dish did take a bit of time to prepare, but is honestly worth the effort. After a good roast in the oven the corners of the squash began to caramelise a treat, and the cavity of the acorn provided a fantastic home for the rich tomato, garlicky sauce. The crispy bacon and toasted pine nuts adding a final layer of crunch in the texture.
Ingredients (serves 2 as a main dish, or 4 as a starter)
- 2 mini acorn squash, roughly 10cm in diameter
- Olive oil
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, diced (I realise this is a lot – I like garlic!)
- 1 onion, diced
- 600g carton/tin of organic peeled plum tomatoes
- Tablespoon tomato purée
- A few springs of chopped fresh rosemary
- Pinch of dried chilli flakes
- 4 rashers of free-range bacon
- Approx 2 tsps of creamed basil/pesto (see end of post notes)
- Tablespoon of toasted pine nuts
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (fan oven)
- Rinse the squashes clean, slice in half (through the root / splitting the atom! as in the pic above), and scoop out the seeds and loose flesh.
- Place face-side down on a baking tray and drizzle with a teeny bit of olive oil. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes.
- Meanwhile get on to the tomato sauce. You want to make this straight away as the longer it cooks for the tastier it is! In a saucepan soften the garlic and onions in a touch of olive oil. When softened add in the plum tomatoes. I drained the tomatoes of their sauce before adding into the pan as I wanted the tomato sauce to be really thick. Stir for a few mins, breaking up the tomatoes. Add in a tablespoon of tomato puree, a few sprigs of chopped fresh rosemary & a pinch of chilli flakes (more if you’re daring). Season to taste, and lower the temperature so the sauce bubbles away quietly whilst the squash roasts. Check at regular intervals to make sure it isn’t sticking to the pan.
- Chop the bacon into tiny pieces and lightly fry on a low temp till it crisps up. Set aside.
- When the 40 mins is up, remove the squash from the oven, (the flesh should be soft but still holding together its shape), turn over and spoon the tomato mixture into each cavity. You may have some left over it will entirely depend on the dimensions of each individual squash cavity! Top with the crispy bacon pieces and drizzle over the creamed basil/pesto. Return to the oven for a further 10 minutes.
- When done scatter with pine nuts and serve with a dressed green salad /baby spinach leaves.
A note on the pesto: Most commercial shop bought pestos contain Parmesan cheese, and quite often cheap vegetable oil too so check your ingredients. If you don’t tolerate dairy in your diet then there are a couple of options. A brand called Seggiano is a non-dairy pesto which uses cashew nuts for the cheesy texture. It’s fairly pricey mind. You can of course also make your own by combining raw garlic, basil, lemon and olive oil and seasoning.
I have recently found a great substitute in a health-food shop by the brand Sunita which I have used in the above dish – Creamed Basil the ingredients are basil, extra-virgin olive oil, salt and lemon juice. Perfect! They also do a Pesto which includes garlic and pine nuts. I just added my pine nuts on top of the finished dish!
I am entering this recipe to the November Simple & in Season round up. Simple recipe, very seasonal produce!