What’s better than a meal that provides its own vessel for serving? Well, obviously a meal that tastes good. After all, coconuts come in their own little container, but I’m still not a …
What’s better than a meal that provides its own vessel for serving? Well, obviously a meal that tastes good. After all, coconuts come in their own little container, but I’m still not a fan. Think of your own example, however, because I am well aware that I am outnumbered on whether or not to slander coconuts. For example, my wife is giving me a threatening look as I read aloud my thoughts on them.
But if you can tolerate my insensitivity to tropical ingredients, I’ll share something comparable to the coconut but with vastly more savory applications. Similar in shape, lacking in nutty qualities, and arguably more versatile, here is an often-overlooked autumn harvest item that packs a lot of flavor and texture, while maintaining its status as a humble yet affordable vine vegetable: spaghetti squash.
Now if you had asked me about squash as a teenager, I would have retorted that I would likely never like them or intentionally use them as a part of my meals. That was before I married a woman who cooks so well I’ve given up all hopes of ever reaching my old high school wrestling weight class. And as proof of that, she’s even fooled me into liking coconuts; c’est la vie.
Anyway, my wife doesn’t like to have pasta all the time because the carbs mess with her blood sugar. I’m a huge pasta lover, and to be honest it’s not for lack of liking pasta that she will sometimes avoid it. No, she too loves the long stringy ropes of Italian-inspired canvas that transport the cascades of flavor in various unique sauces.
So in tribute to her love of spaghetti, she has become quite crafty with making the spaghetti squash, among other vegetables, serve as her pasta stand-in. For anyone with heartburn or acid reflux, the dish I’m about to share is all the more enjoyable for you, because it uses an alfredo sauce in place of a red sauce, which of course makes it easier to eat.
Stuffed spaghetti squash is the dish I have been leading up to, and although I almost never see anything like this on the Food Network or in other cooking media, I see similar renditions quite often when looking through our old cookbooks in the casserole sections. It’s fairly neat to cook because it provides its own casserole dish. As outlined in the instructions below, you cut the squash in half lengthwise from the stem to the butt of the squash. Then you brush on or drizzle on olive oil before seasoning with salt and pepper.
If you don’t use enough salt and pepper at this stage, it’s OK because you get a second chance to season the squash after the main cook.
Following this preparation, you bake the squash on a baking sheet (covered in tin foil for cleaning purposes later), with the flesh side down, for 45 minutes at 400 degrees.
Once this is done, you can remove and cool shortly before stripping the stringy flesh away from the skin with a fork. Take the flesh out of the skin and place in a large mixing bowl and combine with the pesto, alfredo sauce, half the mozzarella cheese, half a diced tomato, and 2 roasted red peppers, chopped.
Set the skins, or shells, aside.
Interestingly, you can buy roasted red peppers or you can roast them yourself. If you’ve never done so, then I recommend it simply for the joy of witnessing the peppers blister and make a fresh roasted flavor that I feel is lost when canned.
To roast your own, you can place a whole pepper over the burners on your stove. This typically works better with gas stoves or any open flame. Just use a pair of tongs to turn the pepper every so often as each side blisters to a near-burnt look on the exterior flesh. Then remove and cool in the fridge in a covered bowl until chilled enough to handle for chopping. Mix these into the squash mixture and season for the last time with salt and pepper.
Now that you’ve made a big sticky mess, return it equally into the shells of the squash. Cover the surface with more mozzarella cheese and bake again until you have a desirable golden brown surface.
Now with an average-sized squash, this will likely feed at least 4 people. If you don’t have an appetite like me, then it might go so far as to feed twice that; it all depends on how big the squash is too. That’s another nice part of this dish: the squash you can find to buy or grow can be as small as a softball or as big as a large cantaloupe. You can adjust the portions of your other ingredients to match how much you plan to make with the size of the squash you obtain.
The way out here in the kitchen, we like a nice self-contained meal. This one just so happens to fill us right up and packs all the flavor you would expect from a traditional spaghetti dish. And if you are a fan of red sauce, you can easily swap out the sauces to make it your own. Add meat to the dish or other savory veggies and you can make stuffed spaghetti squash a regular meal with new things to try every time. Happy eating!
Stuffed spaghetti squash
Recipe courtesy of my wife Chelsea Hill (and very possibly elsewhere on the interwebs)
1 spaghetti squash
salt and pepper
¼ cup pesto
2 roasted red peppers
½ of a large tomato, diced
1 10oz jar of alfredo sauce
1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds before brushing flesh with olive oil and seasoning liberally with salt and pepper.
Place flesh side down on a baking sheet and poke several holes in the skin of the squash to vent the heat
Bake for 45 minutes at 400 degrees, then remove and allow to cool before stripping the spaghetti-like flesh away from the interior of the shell and placing aside in a bowl. Set aside empty shells.
Mix squash with alfredo sauce, pesto, peppers, tomatoes, additional salt and pepper to taste, and half a cup or so of mozzarella cheese.
Return mixture into the shells and sprinkle additional mozzarella cheese on top. Place back in the oven for an additional 15 minutes or until surface of cheese is golden brown.
Remove from oven and let cool before serving.