This has got to be the BEST 'no-mac' and cheese dish you'll ever taste. Nutrient-rich, low-carb spaghetti squash is one of the easiest ways to get your 'carb fix' without the food coma. The roasted spaghetti squash provides a rich, slightly sweet nuttiness that you won't get from other pasta alternatives like spiralized zucchini or Shirataki noodles. However, the sauce in this recipe really steals the show. Made without flour or butter, it adds an irresistible creaminess that'll make you forget all about those Velveeta shells ;).
Once you get past the "challenge" (to put it lightly) of slicing open the spaghetti squash, this recipe is very simple. One trick I've found to make cutting the spaghetti squash much less difficult is to microwave it beforehand. I had company coming over last night, however, and wanted the squash 'skin' to be presentable and puncture-free (microwaving it requires poking holes in the squash to release the steam). Regardless, I managed to make it through with all fingers intact, and two fairly even squash halves before me.
Once your squash is halved, it's time to scrape out the seeds and strings in the center (just like you would a pumpkin). The first time I cut open a spaghetti squash, I thought these raw strings were the 'spaghetti' part. THANKFULLY that is not the case, and those are actually the only components you need to toss (if you have extra time, you can even roast the seeds for a healthy snack!). Once you've finished scraping the insides out, your halves should look like this:
Now, it's the controversial part. Most recipes will tell you to brush the halves with oil and salt them before baking. Depending on how much you use, however, this can add a lot of calories, sodium, and fat to the dish without providing much benefit. The spaghetti squash itself develops a delicious flavor when roasted and even caramelizes slightly in the pan. All that's needed to prevent the squash from sticking is to lightly spray the baking sheet with olive or coconut oil before placing the squash cut-side down.
After cooking the squash for about 45 minutes at 400 degrees, you should be able to lightly shred it with a fork. If it's coming off in chunks or sticking firmly to the skin, it needs to be cooked longer. Here's what you're looking for:
This next step is where the fun begins. Now that you have these versatile, noodle-like squash pieces to work with, you can combine it with any of your favorite pasta sauces for a healthy comfort food alternative. Since I was already making real macaroni and cheese for half of my guests, I decided to simply use the remaining sauce in the squash boats. As you can see from the picture below, it started out pretty soup from the liquid released once the spinach was added. As it sat, however, the sauce thickened to a delightful, creamy consistency. If you like the sauce even thicker, make sure to cook and squeeze the liquid out of your spinach beforehand or use a drier vegetable, like broccoli, instead.
Keep in mind that you do not need to serve the squash in these shells. This is completely optional and only works well if your 'boats' are puncture and tear-free. The recipe is just as tasty served in a bowl, but if you want to enhance your presentation, go ahead and use the shells. Healthy food is FUN :)
Not only is this dish incredibly filling, but it tastes like a major 'splurge' compared to usual low-carb dinners. Feel free to add your own spin on it by incorporating different veggies, chicken or any other kinds of protein. Recipe found below!
Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Boats
- 1 small to medium sized spaghetti squash
- 2 cups raw spinach
- 1.5 cups shredded, part-skim cheddar cheese
- 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1/3 cup low fat milk or milk alternative (I used unsweetened cashew milk)
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- salt & pepper to taste
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly spray a baking sheet with olive or coconut oil.
2) Slice squash in half length-wise and scoop out the seeds and strings.
3) Place squash cut-side down on baking sheet and roast for about 45 minutes, or until flesh is tender and slightly caramelized. Remove from oven and allow squash to cool while preparing the cheese sauce.
4) Heat milk, garlic, and cheese in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir continuously, adding the yogurt once the cheese is fully melted.
5) Once squash is cool enough to handle, lightly scrape the flesh away from the skin and into a bowl.
6) Add spinach to cheese sauce and stir until wilted.
7) Pour sauce mixture over spaghetti squash and stir until evenly incorporated. Transfer to boats (or individual serving bowls) and enjoy!
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