Saturday, November 12, 2011

3-Cheese Spaghetti Squash Bake

We’re edging up on Thanksgiving.   The Foodie children have made their respective side dish requests:  stuffing for The Girl, corn for The Boy (which means Corn Souffle for the rest of the family).  The Hubs has finally made a choice, after much deliberation:  Green Bean Casserole.  For myself, I’ll be making Orange-Vanilla Cranberry Sauce since, as I mentioned in a previous post, this is the only time of year I think to make it.  And that–plus a turkey, some mashed potatoes and dinner rolls, the Thanksgiving staples–will be our celebration of gratitude.

The Hubs had thought about requesting some sort of spaghetti squash dish in place of his beloved green beans, but ultimately he deferred to the classics.  But because he went way beyond the call of parenting duty yesterday, and because bought me a new book (simply because he thought of me when he saw it on the shelf at the bookstore), and because he has already bought me a Christmas gift that he’s so excited to give me in December–for all those reasons and about a thousand others, I decided to create another preparation of spaghetti squash for dinner tonight.

First of all, I decided to try a new method of roasting the squash.  Last time, I cut it in half before scooping out the seeds and roasting the halves on a cookie sheet; this time, I just poked some steam holes in the squash and roasted the entire thing for half an hour.  After letting it cool for 20 minutes of so, I cut the squash in half, scooped out the seeds and strings, then separated the squash strands with a fork.  Cutting the cooked squash in half is much, much easier than halving the very tough skin of the fresh squash; however, getting the strings out of the center without losing some of the squash was a little tricky.  If I have to choose my challenges, though, I’ll choose the strings every time from here on out.

Because I’m not a fan of spaghetti squash combined with tomato-based sauces, I went with a creamy version of a ricotta-based sauce and used the herbs I would normally use in a ricotta filling for pasta: basil, garlic, and a little nutmeg.  Adding eggs to the ricotta gives this casserole a little more body than it would have otherwise; it puffs up just a little bit and browns on top, thanks to a sprinkle of Parmesan.

Next time I make this recipe, I think I might try adding some chopped spinach to the ricotta sauce, just for extra color and a nutritional boost.  I might also add some bread crumbs to the topping, for a little crunch.  And, if you like, you could easily add some sort of meat, if you don’t think your family will welcome a vegetarian entree–although this casserole has enough texture and flavor to make people forget that fact, in my humble opinion.

This recipe got a uniformly positive review from the family.  “It’s actually pretty tasty,” said The Boy.  “It tastes really good,” said The Girl, although she struggles with the slightly crunchy texture of spaghetti squash.  (“It just reminds me too much of pumpkin guts,” she says.)

As for The Hubs:  “This is so, so good,” he said.   “It tastes as good as something my grandma would have made.”  And that, of course, is just about the best thing I could have hoped to hear.

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3-Cheese Spaghetti Squash Bake

Ingredients:

1 small spaghetti squash
2 eggs, beaten
1 container (15 oz.) ricotta cheese
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. dry basil
1/3 tsp. nutmeg
Parmesan cheese, for topping

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Poke holes in the spaghetti squash, then roast the whole thing in the oven for 30 minutes. Allow the squash to cool for 20 minutes or so, until it's easily handled. Use a large knife to cut the squash in half, then scoop our the seeds and strings from the center. Use a fork to separate the squash strands and transfer them to a large bowl. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the eggs, ricotta, and spices. Stir until smooth. Pour the ricotta mixture over the squash and stir thoroughly to distribute.

Coat a 2-quart casserole dish with non-stick spray. Spread 1/3 of the squash mixture in the baking dish; top with half the grated mozzarella. (Don't worry about proportions here; everything bakes together anyway.) Spread another 1/3 of the squash over the cheese; top with the remaining half of the mozzarella, then the remaining 1/3 of the squash mixture. Sprinkle to top with Parmesan cheese.

Bake for about 45 minutes, until the edges are bubbly and lightly browned.

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2 Responses to “3-Cheese Spaghetti Squash Bake”

  1. 1

    Jessica — August 22, 2012 @ 11:15 pm

    This sounds DELICIOUS! Can’t wait to try it out! We love using spaghetti squash! What would be your recommendation for sides for this if I serve it as the main dish with no meat?

  2. 2

    familyfoodie — August 23, 2012 @ 10:13 pm

    A big green salad is always a good option with spaghetti squash, especially if you toss in some spinach (for iron) to compensate for the meatless entree.

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