It’s been awhile since I’ve experienced spaghetti squash, so when I cooked it the other day, I was as awestruck as if it were my first time. After halving, seeding and roasting it for forty minutes, I shredded the squash with a fork and hocus-pocus, the flesh magically turned to spaghetti as it came away from the sides.
As I shredded, I thought, “Surely this spaghetti squash will need to be sautéed with a little butter or oil for flavor.” But as I tasted it, I realized it didn’t need anything. It already had a sweet taste and a rich buttery mouth feel. Call it an epiphany or a super-hippy moment, but I had a sudden realization. One of nature’s gifts is that good food often needs very little coaxing to taste wonderful.
That night I made a simple spaghetti squash skillet supper that was so good my friend and I sat silent through dinner as we savored every bite. Totally smitten with spaghetti squash, I went back and bought another one. This time I used it like pasta and turned it into lasagna, layering it with sauce and cheese. To make it a complete meal, I added a can of white beans and chopped Swiss chard to the tomato sauce, but clearly other green and bean combos would work as well.
While the squash roasted, Mom and I threw together the sauce, sliced up fresh mozzarella, and grated a bit of Parm. And when the squash was roasted, we shredded it and began to assemble our lasagna. Since our ingredients were warm and the oven already hot, it didn’t take long to bake – just enough to heat it through and get the cheese melted and browned.
This spaghetti squash “lasagna” was warm and flavorful, and it satisfied us the way a traditional one would. Better yet, as I went to bed that night, I felt nourished, but not full.
Spaghetti Squash Lasagna
If you’re an olive fan, add 1/2 cup pitted and coarsely chopped kalamata olives to the simmering tomato sauce. Depending on the squash size, you may have leftovers, which make a wonderful side dish.
1 medium spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeds scraped out
3 tablespoons oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 can (15 to16 ounces) white beans, drained
1 bunch Swiss chard (12 ounces to 1 pound), de-ribbed and coarsely chopped
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Place squash, cut side down, on a greased baking sheet and roast until tender, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Cradling one of the squash halves in one hand, use a fork to shred the squash flesh into a bowl. Repeat with remaining squash half.
Meanwhile, heat oil, garlic, and pepper flakes in soup kettle or Dutch until garlic sizzles and starts to turn golden. Add tomatoes and beans; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced to a thick sauce, 12 to 15 minutes. Add Swiss chard; continue to cook until it wilts, just a couple of minutes.
Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees. Spread a few tablespoons of the sauce over the bottom of a 9- by 9-inch greased baking pan. Press a generous 1 1/2 cups of the spaghetti squash into the pan followed by half the sauce and a third each mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Repeat with another layer of 1 1/2 cups squash, followed by remaining sauce and another third each: mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, Make a final layer of 1 1/2 cups squash, topped with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Bake until lasagna is bubbly and cheese is spotty brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes. Cut or spoon a portion into each pasta plate. Serve.