This past weekend I picked the last of the spaghetti squash from the garden. We have eaten a few already and they are wonderful, but I felt the need to come up with another way to prepare them. We have had them with marinara sauce and eaten it like regular spaghetti, also pesto sauce and chicken. When I was in the mountains with my mom I made a spaghetti squash and cheese casserole.
That casserole was similar to a mac and cheese and tasted pretty darn good. The problem was that it got watery the next day. So I did some brainstorming and this recipe is what I came up with. It is similar to mac and cheese. Instead of using a roux though, I used ricotta cheese. I also used cheddar cheese and my favorite topping of panko crumbs.
The flavor and texture also reminds me of the standard hashbrown casserole. The one that is at every potluck meal, many Thanksgiving tables, church gatherings etc. This casserole has the onions and mushrooms and is creamy thanks to the ricotta. The advantage is that there is no processed canned soup and less fat as a result. And of course spaghetti squash is much more nutritious than packaged shredded potatoes.
This is a crowd pleaser, even among kids. Now it may involve a little sweet talking, but the kids will like it. Our oldest is our pickiest eater and he claimed he didn’t like it. He of course already picked out the mushrooms, he can’t tolerate them. Then after whining he asked “what’s this” pointing at the cheese topping. I told him it was cheddar cheese, one of his favorites. He said “I thought it was squash”, took a bite and declared the dish as “awesome”! He gobbled it up! Those preconceived dislikes get in the way sometimes, it’s all in his head! What you have here is a healthier casserole you can feel good feeding your family and friends.
Spaghetti Squash Casserole
1 large spaghetti squash (or 2 small)
1 Tbs. olive oil
Salt & pepper
Small onion, diced
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbs. butter
1 c. part skim ricotta cheese
1 1/4 c. (5 oz.) shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 Tbs. butter, melted
1/2 c. panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the spaghetti squash in half, scoop out the seeds. Brush the cut edges with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lay them cut side down on the pan and bake for about 45 minutes, closer to 35 minutes if using small squash. It is done when a fork easily penetrates through the skin.
Once the squash is out of the oven melt the butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and mushrooms and sauté about 5 minutes until the onions are slightly browned. Remove from heat and stir in the ricotta cheese and 1 cup of the cheddar cheese. Shred the spaghetti squash with a fork and add to the cheese mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste, stir well. Pour into a greased casserole dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese on top. Combine the melted butter and panko, sprinkle on top. Bake at 400 for 30 minutes until hot and bubbly.
Yields 6-8 servings