Lately, I’ve found myself cooking with more seasonal produce–things like butternut squash soup and roasted seasoned yams. It’s funny, because now that we live in southern California, it doesn’t feel at all like autumn to me, and yet my body still wants to eat those warm and comforting dishes, even in 90+ degree temperatures.
This weekend, I felt inspired to cook with spaghetti squash. I was feeling adventurous and decided to make something up from scratch based on the ingredients we had on hand in the kitchen.
I wound up making two dishes, because the spaghetti squash I bought was quite large. I did not take pictures of these two dishes, because they weren’t very pretty (and they disappeared so quickly), but they were super delicious and very easy to prepare. Plus, they were a hit with the whole family, which I think makes them worth sharing.
PESTO SPAGHETTI SQUASH
1/2 large spaghetti squash
about 1 1/2 cups pine nuts
about 2 cups basil leaves
a drizzle of olive oil
about 1 tsp of sea salt
3 cloves raw garlic
about 1 Tbsp of Udo’s 3-6-9 oil (essential fatty acids)
fresh roma tomatoes (diced)
For the pesto, I picked some basil from our garden and blended it with pine nuts, garlic, sea salt, olive oil, and Udo’s 3-6-9. I left it slightly course to add texture to the meal, but you could make it creamy if you like, and I’m sure it would taste just as good. There is something so addictive about fresh pesto–it’s dangerous stuff.
For the squash, I sliced it in half and scraped out the seeds with a spoon, then placed the two halves hollow side down into a large glass baking dish with a bit of olive oil and about 1/4 inch of water. I poked a few holes in the top with a knife to allow steam to escape.
I baked the squash at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes, then let it cool a bit before using a fork to scrape out the lovely stringy “spaghetti” strands. Once I realized how large the squash was, I decided to set aside half of it for the following day, and I only used half for this dish.
The next step was simply to stir the pesto into the spaghetti squash until each strand was coated with yummy pestoey goodness, then top with some fresh diced tomatoes and fresh basil leaves. Yum!!!
SPAGHETTI SQUASH CASSEROLE
1/2 large spaghetti squash
several large handfuls of fresh baby spinach
about 10 crimini mushrooms (diced)
1 1/2 jars of whole plum tomatoes (diced)
about 1/2 container of Tofutti vegan cream cheese
about 1/2 cup Daiya vegan mozzarrella shreds
panko bread crumbs
sea salt, black pepper, and garlic powder to taste
This dish was ridiculously easy to make. I simply used my hands to mix the spaghetti squash strands with spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, and a bit of vegan cream cheese, then added some seasonings and mixed again. I was tempted to sautee the veggies first, but I wanted to make this dish without any oil, so I decided to just toss them in raw.
I spooned the mixture into a large glass casserole dish, then sprinkled a couple of handfuls of shredded vegan mozzarrella cheese on top. I put panko bread crumbs on top of about 2/3 of the casserole (for Zander and Alex) and left 1/3 without, because I’m trying to eat less gluten. I have to say that, while mine was good, the side with panko crumbs was outstanding. It added that extra little crunch that was the perfect complement to the dish.
I baked the casserole at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the cheese was melted, the contents were bubbly, and the panko crumbs were lightly browned.
I served both of the above dishes with thick slices of hearty whole-grain garlic bread for Alex and vegan cheesy whole-grain garlic bread for Zander. They both got an A+ from our entire household. The only thing I think I would do differently next time is to maybe mix some panko crumbs into the casserole mix, in addition to sprinkling them on top, to absorb some of the liquid created as the veggies cooked.
I’m really impressed by how versatile spaghetti squash is and how easy it was to make two dishes with it that actually tasted great! I think I’ll be cooking with this ingredient far more often now that I know how wonderful it is! (Did I mention this was my first time to cook a spaghetti squash?)