As much as I love pasta, my Stuffed Spaghetti Winter Squash recipe is a fun, nutritious alternative when you have overloaded on the carbs during the week. It is a great side dish and is vegetarian-friendly and becomes vegan-friendly when you omit the cheese.
Winter squash are yellow or tan in color - and packed with nutrients. Nutritional content can differ among certain varieties of squash, but they are basically loaded with vitamins A and C, beta-carotene (which most people think only belongs in carrots,) fiber and antioxidants. We need all of these in our bodies to fight off the "sick" days during flu season.
My children get a thrill out of shredding the spaghetti from the squash - they can't believe it happens that way. Spaghetti squash has a mild flavor unlike butternut squash, and is soft in texture. The combination of flavors in this recipe blend well, with a little crunch from the pine nuts, the gooeyness of the melted mozzarella cheese and the smooth texture of the tomatoes and onions seasoned with the herbs - it is delightful. I hope you try this little twist on Italian spaghetti. Enjoy!
Please read my Chef's notes at the bottom of the recipe on how to turn this side dish into a main meal.
1 large spaghetti squash (approximately 3 lbs.)
1 cup Spanish or yellow onions, diced
5 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
3 cups canned chopped tomatoes with juice
1 tbsp. dried Italian seasoning
2 tbsp. toasted Pine nuts (pignolias)
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2" cubes
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
Fresh chopped Italian (flat leaf) parsley, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
1. Wash the squash! Carefully cut this in half lengthways and rub with a tiny bit of olive oil on the cut side. Add approximately one 1/2"-1" of water to the bottom of the pan and place the squash cut side down. Bake for approximately 40 minutes or more (depending on how large your squash is) or until you can pierce a small, sharp knife easily into the skin. Remove the squash from the oven and from the pan to let it cool a little, enough so that you can handle it. Then, with a dinner fork shred the squash from its shell and set aside into a large bowl. Reserve the shells.
2. While the squash is baking/cooling we can prepare our stuffing. First, in a large skillet over medium heat cook the onions in a couple of tbsp. olive oil for approximately 2 minutes. Then add the garlic, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and tomatoes, stirring well. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes more to blend the flavors. Set aside to cool. Mix the cubed cheese and pine nuts into the tomato mixture.
3. Combine the tomato mixture with the squash, gently tossing it to combine well. Divide the squash mixture evenly into the shells. Top these off with the shredded mozzarella and bake for approximately 20-30 minutes until the cheese has melted and starts to brown. Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh parsley.
Chef's Notes & Tips
You can easily turn this side dish into a meal by adding sliced grilled chicken or pork cutlets (pictured above) which have been pounded thin, breaded (flour, egg and breadcrumbs) and lightly fried until golden brown.