Everybody needs a star side that can play the main if you have vegetarians at your Thanksgiving table and this is yours — presenting the most delicious Stuffed Acorn Squash alla Norma!! Creamy mozzarella cheese, pine nuts, and tender fried eggplant hunks are tossed together in a gorgeous tomato sauce, then tucked into golden roasted acorn squash boats and baked to melting perfection. Top with basil and a drizzle of HONEY!! Savory yet sweet flavors make this versatile veggie bite utterly irresistible and the perfect addition to any Thanksgiving spread.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 acorn squash, cut in half, seeds removed and discarded
1 (1 1/4-pound) eggplant, cut into 1-inch dice (yields 6 cups diced)
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dried oregano, divided
1 ½ cups crushed tomatoes
1/3 cup pine nuts or chopped walnuts
4-ounces fresh mozzarella, diced
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, torn
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
•Preheat the oven to 425ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the squash cut side up and brush with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Flip the squash cut-side down to bake and roast for 30 to 35 minutes until fairly tender.
•Toss the eggplant with kosher salt and allow to sit spread evenly a baking sheet for 20 minutes. Pat very dry with paper towels.
•Heat a large nonstick saute pan over medium-high heat with ¼ cup olive oil. Add the eggplant and allow to cook until golden brown on all sides, tossing occasionally, 5 to 7 minutes. Once the eggplant is browned, add the garlic, red pepper flakes and 1 teaspoon oregano. Allow to cook for a minute then add the tomatoes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer everything together for 5 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper. Set aside until squash is ready and allow to cool slightly.
•Remove the squash from the oven. Toss the pine nuts and mozzarella into the slightly cooled eggplant mixture and then stuff into the center of each squash.
•Mix the panko breadcrumbs with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon oregano. Sprinkle the top of each squash with breadcrumbs. Return to the oven to bake another 15 to 20 minutes until the squash is tender, cheese is melted, and breadcrumbs are golden brown.
•Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.