Kabocha Squash Quinoa Bake with Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta
My roommate and I slept in a queen bed for the first two years of our romantic cohabitation. This wasn’t ideal given Logan’s snoring habits and our weight differential, as sleeping that close to someone significantly heavier meant that I was always resting at a 30-degree angle, and if he got up suddenly, I would immediately roll into a dude-shaped mattress indentation. However, the queen bed was all I knew at that time, so I didn’t give it too much thought.
When we finally moved apartments a year ago, Logan and I upgraded to a memory foam king bed, and my world was turned upside down. The bed was a gift from the heavens, and I was ecstatic. I no longer had to brace my body on an incline! I could stretch out and roll around as much as I wanted! The memory foam absorbed most of Logan’s snoring vibrations! After a week of starfishing all over that magical paradise, I couldn’t fathom how we had ever slept in anything else. King bed 4eva.
It’s funny how certain things come into your life, and then you can’t imagine how you survived without them. In addition to my king bed, I feel similarly about smart phones, high-speed internet, and skinny jeans. Duh. (I get anxious just thinking about having to call peeps from a landline, while wearing flared low-rise denim and waiting 7 hours for my Napster downloads to finish.)
Certain food ideas also elicit the, “How did I live before this?!” reaction. This kale salad comes to mind, as do chia recipes, and overnight oats, but it’s the quinoa bake that I feel most strongly about. Given the fact that I now make quinoa bakes on a weekly basis, it seems ridiculous that I suffered through 26 long years without them. Since making this chicken and roasted broccoli version, I’ve never looked back, and I’m slightly worried that my affinity for making seasonal quinoa casseroles now borders on fetishism.
But there’s just so much to love about a good quinoa bake, friends. They’re simple, healthy, versatile, and can be assembled in advance and then baked just before serving (hallelujah). Plus, quinoa is the trendiest, and it’s the perfect nutty base for a variety of flavors. I try to limit myself to sharing one baked quinoa creation per season, and this dreamy Kabocha Squash Quinoa Bake with Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta is my autumn offering. I’m pretty pumped about it…
I could ramble on and on about the joys of crispy pancetta, perfectly caramelized Brussels sprouts, and fluffy quinoa bathed in a subtly sweet roasted kabocha squash puree and layered with two types of melt-y cheese, but I don’t want to bore you. So I wrote a haiku to sum things up:
Brussels, squash, Fontina, Parm
I’m a genius, yes?
This Kabocha Squash Quinoa Bake is a very satisfying meal on its own, but it also makes a pretty epic side dish for almost any meat or fish. It would be an excellent addition to your Thanksgiving feast (my family would never allow it, but those of you open to slightly untraditional T-Day cooking should definitely give it a shot), and it’s perfect for festive holiday dinner parties. Total show-stopper.
As always, feel free to adapt this fabulous quinoa bake to suit your taste/diet/market offerings. Vegetarians can obviously ditch the pancetta, gluten-free peeps should swap in GF Panko (or go sans breadcrumbs), and if you can’t get your hands on kabocha squash, butternut will obviously do. You’ll see that I garnished my bake with a couple quickly sautéed shaved Brussels sprouts and some pomegranate arils for added flair, which is optional, but highly recommended. The tart pomegranate adds a whole new dimension to the sweet and savory flavor party.
Not gonna lie, this recipe is slightly more involved than usual. Sorry. That said, you know I’d never share anything that I didn’t think you could handle. Please just take a couple minutes to read through the entire recipe and get super organized. There are a lot of steps, but they’re all very simple, and if you’re systematic about it, this bake could be on your table in an hour and a half. I’m 100% confident that even the most domestically challenged of you can pull this off, so no excuses. Clear eyes, full hearts, CAN’T LOSE.
Sidenote: I made this yesterday and left it sitting on the stove for Logan to feed himself while I was at dinner with a friend. He was already asleep when I got home, but when I climbed into our king bed he murmured, “The quinoa thing. So bomb. I ate half of it.” He then patted my head affectionately and recommenced his death snore. For the record, such unsolicited sleep compliments from the Dude are rare and should not be taken lightly.
If you’ve never made a quinoa bake, do it now, people. Your life will never be the same…
Kabocha Squash Quinoa Bake with Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta: (Serves 4-6)
1 kabocha squash
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1¼ cups uncooked quinoa
2¼ cups low-sodium vegetable stock, divided
3 cups Brussels sprouts (about 18 sprouts), washed and quartered
1 tablespoon good quality maple syrup
6 ounces pancetta, diced
1 large shallot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1¾ cups freshly grated creamy Fontina cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan, divided
3 tablespoons whole wheat Panko breadcrumbs
For garnish: (optional)
2 Brussels sprouts, shaved and quickly sautéed
¼ cup pomegranate arils
Preparing your Kabocha Squash Quinoa Bake with Brussels Sprouts and Pancetta:
-Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set aside.
-Let’s start with the squash. Using a very sharp knife, remove the very top (including the stem) and bottom of the squash. This will make it easier to cut in half, okay?
-Slice the squash in half, and then scoop out the seeds and any stringy bits from the inside of each half.-Rub each squash half with 1 teaspoon olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Place the squash halves cut-side down on the prepared baking sheet and roast for 1 hour until the squash is very tender.
-Meanwhile, place the quinoa in a small saucepan with 1¾ cups vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed. Let rest for 5-10 minutes, covered, then fluff with a fork.
-Moving on to the Brussels sprouts! Arrange the quartered sprouts on a baking sheet (or in a skillet) and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and maple syrup. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Roast for 20 minutes, tossing once halfway through until just tender and caramelized. (I like to do this during the last 20 minutes of the squash roasting time to keep things simple.)
-Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook for about 5 minutes until brown and crispy.
-Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the shallots and garlic. (Makes sure to wait for the pan to cool down or you’ll burn the garlic, which would be a TRAGEDY.) Cook for 2-3 minutes until the shallots become translucent and the garlic is fragrant.
-Once the squash is roasted, spoon the insides into a blender or food processor.
-Add ¼ cup vegetable stock and 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and puree until smooth.
-Place the cooked quinoa to a large mixing bowl. Add the roasted Brussels sprouts, the pancetta mixture, 1½ cups of the kabocha squash puree (yes, you will have a little leftover puree to snack on), 1 cup grated Fontina, ¼ cup Parmesan, and the remaining ¼ cup vegetable stock.
-Mix until well combined. Taste and season generously with salt and pepper.
-Transfer the mixture to a medium casserole dish or cast iron skillet and smooth into an even layer. Top with the remaining ¾ cup Fontina, ¼ cup Parmesan and breadcrumbs. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and lightly browned.
-I like to top this with some sautéed shaved Brussels sprouts and pomegranate arils, but that’s obviously optional.
Get in there…
I’m thrilled to be a part of Food Network’s Fall Fest this week. For more badass recipes featuring Brussels sprouts, check out the blogs below.
Feed Me Phoebe: Roasted Brussels Sprout Salad with Radicchio, Egg Mimosa, and Bacon Vinaigrette
Dishin & Dishes: Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Pine Nuts
Weelicious: Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Poppy Seeds
Devour: Bring On the Brussels Sprouts
The Cultural Dish: Roasted Brussels Sprouts – Three Ways
In Jennie’s Kitchen: Penne with Brown Butter Brussels Sprouts & Butternut Squash
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Roasted Brussels Sprouts Empanadas with Mustard Sauce
Red or Green: Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Peppers Pizza
Taste with the Eyes: Quinoa Omelette filled with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Cheddar
Jeanette’s Healthy Living: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Mint, Cilantro and Vietnamese Style Dressing
The Wimpy Vegetarian: Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad with Caramelized Onions
The Mom 100: Bacon-Wrapped Brussels Sprouts
FN Dish: 8 Crowd-Pleasing Brussels Sprouts for Your Thanksgiving Table
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