Lighter Dinner: Spaghetti Squash Casserole
Pasta is great, but it can weigh you down--figuratively and literally--and especially so in the warm summer months. So, instead, why not try spaghetti squash in lieu of the pasta version? No, spaghetti squash doesn't taste like pasta, at least not to me. Nonetheless, I really like the squash. It's light, tender, and has a delicate taste on its own. In a casserole, the squash takes on the other flavors of the recipe. In this case, I've included the squash in an Italian-style casserole that includes tomato sauce and several cheeses. The casserole is hearty but not heavy. You can use jarred tomato sauce, if you like, but I use the homemade version with meat (lean ground beef or turkey) in it. The casserole goes nicely with a mixed green salad and, if you feel the need for extra carbs, with garlic bread (sourdough?). Because I'm partial to my hands and fingers, I don't try to crack open the squash with a big knife and then roast it. Instead, I pierce the squash with a knife in a few places and microwave it for 6-9 minutes (depending on the size of the squash). Although the squash needs to cool before you cut it open and start pulling out the innards, the microwaving technique is simple and far faster and easier than roasting. Plus, you're less likely to incur knife wounds. So, when you next have the urge for spaghetti, try it in squash form!
Spaghetti Squash Casserole -- Serves 6+
1 large spaghetti squash (8-10 inches long)
3-4 cups of prepared tomato/spaghetti sauce (I use homemade with meat)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
1 cup of low-fat ricotta cheese
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup of shredded Italian-style cheese or mozzarella
1 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup of seasoned bread crumbs (I use Panko)
Pierce the spaghetti squash in several places and put it on a microwave-safe plate. Cover the squash loosely with a paper towel and microwave it for about 5 minutes. Turn the squash over and microwave it for 1-5 minutes more or until it's cooked through (it should give a little to slight pressure with your fingers). Let the squash cool. When you're ready to assemble the casserole, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds (dispose of them or give them to the birds), and then use a fork to pull out the strands of the squash. Keep pulling until the shell of the squash is empty. Put the squash strands into a 13 x 9-inch pan or 3-quart casserole sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Pour in the tomato/spaghetti sauce, salt, and pepper and mix them into the squash. Stir in the ricotta and grated Parmesan cheese well. Fold in the Italian cheese. Smooth out the squash mixture in the pan/casserole dish. Sprinkle on the shredded Parmesan and then the breadcrumbs. Bake the casserole for 35-45 minutes or it's until hot and bubbly. Let the casserole stand for 15 minutes before serving it, so it firms up a bit.