Monday, October 1, 2012

A Squash Adventure: Spaghetti Squash Casserole with Pesto

At the farmer’s market this weekend you might have noticed we are in squash heaven. Goodbye berries—hello winter foods. Growing up squash was NOT something that my siblings or I looked forward to and mostly it was because of the texture.  I have come to realize that the joys of the squash are really in the preparation.  I’ve decided to try every squash I can get my hands on this year—there are so many varieties to choose from!

Exhibit A: Spaghetti Squash: a light yellow oval shaped squash that is widely available. It has a yellow flesh that becomes stringy when heated, with strings about the size of thin spaghetti pasta. It is mild in flavor with just a bit of squashiness—slightly sweet with a mildly earthy aftertaste.

Spaghetti squash is a really fun one and is so versatile! I’ve actually been cooking this guy for about a year and find it can be subbed for pasta in just about any dish, though I find its hint of sweetness pairs perfectly with pesto sauce.  This is a very low-cal, healthy recipe I’ve converted to a casserole. You can whip this up in a snap! I prefer to cook my squash in the microwave, but you can also roast it in the oven as well.  Let’s make dinner!

Spaghetti Squash Casserole with Pesto
1 6-8 inch long spaghetti squash
¼ cup fresh pesto sauce: Sweet Basil Pesto Recipe
¾ cup 2% milk
1 tsp Italian herb blend
½ tsp salt
Pepper to taste
½ cup shredded asiago or parmesan cheese
6 stalks kale, chopped or 2 cups baby spinach
11/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds and mushy pulp. Cooking one half of the squash at a time, place the half cut-side down in I cup of water in a microwave safe glass pie plate. Microwave on high for 4 minutes cut-side down. Flip and microwave for 4 more minutes cut-side up, then turn over and microwave for 1-2 minutes more until it is soft to the touch. This steams the squash and it will be very hot when you remove it. Allow to sit until it is cool enough to handle. Repeat with the second half of the squash.

Meanwhile, cook the kale or spinach in salted water. I used kale today. I placed the kale in a sauce pan covered, and steamed with 1 cup of water for 3-5 minutes. Drain.

Scoop the cooled squash flesh out with a spoon, gently scraping the inside of the rind and dump into a glass bowl. Combine with the pesto, herbs, salt, milk and shredded asiago/parmesan cheese. Stir in the cooked chopped kale.

Scrap the squash mixture into a 9 x 13 glass or stone casserole dish. Top with the shredded cheese.Bake for 20-30 minutes until the sauce and cheese is bubbly.

This dish makes amazing leftovers--in fact, mine are reheating right now.... Let me know if you like it!

Thanks for reading,

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