When I was a kid I remember any time there was an opportunity to play with my food, I would. Mashed potatoes and gravy turned into volcano mountains on the verge of eruption. Ketchup wasn’t a condiment, but an edible, delicious red paint I could use to write my name, my mood or my favorite shape all over the negative space on my plate. Cheese slices were blank canvases for whatever state, letter or punctuation my teeth could bite them into. Pretzels made mini log cabins. Olives could only be eaten off the tips of your fingers.
Food, in that sense, isn’t as exciting anymore which is why whenever I can find a recipe that allows me to make and eat food in a fun and playful way, I’m all over it. This recipe calls for hands on, messy, slimy meal prep that yields a final dish that has you eating from a delicious yellow vessel.
Now that it’s October, I hope you’ve already made at least one meal with some form of seasonal squash. Pumpkin Mac & Cheese? Zucchini Pumpkin Bread? Butternut Squash Bisque? If you’ve neglected these little gourds, you’re in a for big surprise. Squash is not only delicious and healthy, but also incredibly versatile. Spaghetti squash in particular has the ability to mimic one of everyone’s favorite kind of pasta, spaghetti (duh), thus making it a go-to pasta alternative for the gung-ho dieter.
Since spaghetti squash has a very mild flavor, the more spices, herbs and sauces you add to it, the better it will taste. In this recipe, fire roasted tomatoes and creamy ricotta cheese, along with simple spices like salt and pepper, bump up the flavor of the squash without masking it completely. If you like more heat, try throwing in a jalapeño or a dash of hot sauce. Need more herbs? Add oregano, thyme or sage for a diversity in flavors. Add what you love to the tomato mixture and make it your own. You can’t go wrong!
Vegetables never cease to amaze me with how many different ways they can be cooked, sliced and flavored. Shred them, roast them, bake them, puree them, mash them, fry them, and on and on. Don’t ask me how it happens, but spaghetti squash goes from a solid yellow flesh to perfectly shaped strands of yellow squash noodles. Once the squash has baked for an hour and softened, grab your fork and start to shred! This is great project for kids if you have a handful of mini chefs in your kitchen.
I made this for my family during a quick trip home to Spokane. I ended up using 3 spaghetti squash and made half of the boats vegetarian and half with ground turkey (we have a lot of meat eaters in our family)! Since not everyone needs and entire boat to themselves, this meal took “family style” to a whole new level. Send the boats around the table and take a scoop from each that you like. Have leftovers? Combine leftovers into one boat and place in a tupperware for later. The shell will help keep the flavors all together.
What to Bring to the Store
In an effort to reduce your packaging waste, bring the following reusable items with you to the store:
- 2 reusable produce bags (for your kale and bell pepper) — No need to bag your squash, onion or garlic
Look for mozzarella that comes in a plastic tub rather than a plastic Ziploc bag, or look for it fresh in your deli. As always, bring your reusable grocery bags!
Nearly everything in this recipe can be composted, making it worthy of a 4 out of 5 on the waste meter! Recycle your tomato cans and ricotta cheese tub. Save your empty mozzarella bag (if you went with pre-shredded) for future pet waste bags. Compost all of your vegetable scraps including the squash shell and call it good!
- 2 spaghetti squash, cut in half, seeds and membrane removed
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 cans fire roasted tomatoes
- 1 bell pepper (I used yellow)
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup of kale (red, with stems removed)
- 3/4 cup of shredded mozzarella
- black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, remove all seeds and membranes with a spoon. Lightly salt and pepper the insides of the squash. Lay them face down on a baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, in a large frying pan on medium-high heat, add the olive oil, garlic and onion. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the onions begin to soften. Add in the bell pepper and tomatoes and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Toss in the kale and salt and pepper to taste.
- Remove the spaghetti squash from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Once it's cool enough to handle, shred the inner flesh with a fork (it will look like spaghetti noodles). Remove all of the flesh from each squash and place into a strainer with small mesh holes. Using a paper towel or the back of a spoon, press the excess liquid out of the squash, then add to the tomato mixture.
- Add in the ricotta cheese to the squash and tomato mixture and stir thoroughly until well combined. Divide the mixture evenly back into the empty squash shells. Top with mozzarella cheese.
- With the oven still at 400 degrees, bake the squash for 20-25 minutes until the cheese has melted and browned and the squash is heated through.
- Want some meat in this dish? Add in 1/2 package of ground turkey or ground beef to the tomato mixture.