Spaghetti Squash Gratin
All this Halloween candy has got me craving something healthy – that’s why this savory spaghetti squash is on the menu. If you’re not already a convert, spaghetti squash is a delicious, low-carb, low-cal alternative to pasta; when cooked, it miraculously transforms into golden, spaghetti-like strands. I like to toss it with with marinara sauce and sprinkle it with crispy breadcrumbs and shredded Italian cheeses. Baked in the oven until golden brown, it’s like your favorite pasta reinvented.
I made this dish for my mom and she called it “a gift from the diet gods.” She’s right…your body thinks it’s getting pasta, but you can help yourself to seconds without risking a carb hangover.
If you’ve never cooked it, spaghetti squash can be a little intimidating. It’s one of those vegetables you’re not quite sure how to go at. To cut it raw is suicidal, unless you have a giant cleaver or very big muscles. I think it’s easiest to boil it first, then cut it when it’s nice and soft. See my pics below for the step-by-step.
You can serve this as a vegetarian main course – trust me, you’ll feel virtuous eating it – or as a side dish to Italian sausage or meatballs.
Spaghetti Squash Gratin
Serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a side
2 small or one large spaghetti squash (about 4 ½ – 5 pounds total)*
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 ¾ cups jarred marinara sauce, best quality (such as Rao’s)
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1½ teaspoons fresh thyme, or ½ teaspoon dried
1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend, best quality (typically Fontina, Asiago and Parmesan)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Fill a large pot with about 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer. Place spaghetti squash in pot, cover with lid and simmer, turning once, for about 30 -40 minutes, or until squash is tender and easily pierced with a fork. Let cool.
3. Cut squash in half and remove seeds. Use a spoon to scoop out flesh, being careful not to shred the strands (it is best to go from side to side, rather than lengthwise). Place strands in large bowl.
4. Add extra virgin olive oil, marinara sauce, one teaspoon salt, pepper, and thyme to bowl and toss gently until squash is well coated with sauce. Taste and add more salt if necessary (I usually add quite a bit more but salt to your own taste). Transfer mixture to a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle grated cheese evenly over top. Combine melted butter with panko and sprinkle evenly over top of cheese. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until top is golden. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.
*Select spaghetti squash that feel heavy for their size.
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