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Oh, you guys. It is almost Autumn.
Can you feel the teeniest hint of a bite in the air like I (think I) can? Have you opened your windows to let yourself feel that change-of-the-seasons air? I love it. This time of year fills my spirit until it’s swollen with motivation and excitement. For me, it feels like way more of a fresh start than the beginning of the calendar year. It’s funny though, because I positively hate the cold. It’s almost like I have to soak up all the coziness of fall to carry me through the dreaded depths of winter. I’m a little squirrel, collecting bits of warmth.
No exception to this collection, my recipe book swells with warm, cozy comfort food around the beginning of Autumn. Very often, it swells with baked goods, but sometimes, I find myself a wonderful recipe for something that could actually sustain me. That, friends, is stuffed squash. Better yet, stuffed spaghetti squash. It’s as fun and delicious as it sounds!
The best thing about this recipe is that it’s highly customizable.
And by that I mean, there’s a lot of room for error. Trust me, I would not let you guys go out there with a recipe that set you up for failure. I get it. We’re all twenty-somethings here, trying our best to learn how to be adults. We need some good recipes that will get us through the winter without getting scurvy or something, and we need them to be easy. No julienning things, whatever that means, no expensive food processors. Just a stove top, an oven, a complete lack of culinary skills, and some healthy foods. All of the ingredient amounts are negotiable, and you can feel free to sub out veggies you don’t like in favor of ones you do. As long as they’re veggies. C’mon. We’re trying to be healthy here.
Did you know that spaghetti squash is a super food? Well, as far as I’m concerned, the phrase “super food” is a lie. There’s no cut-and-dry line a food can cross to become a super food rather than plain ol’ boring “healthy.” It just has to have a lot of vitamins and minerals. And spaghetti squash has a lot of vitamins and minerals. They’re a great source of vitamin A especially, at almost 7% of your daily intake in just one cup. They also have vitamin B, C, E. and K.
Is vitamin K potassium? Did I just make a chemistry connection?
No. I just googled it. One’s a vitamin and one’s a mineral. Moving on.
Spaghetti squash is also very low-cal, with only about 40 calories per cup. Compare that with the 221 calories in a cup of spaghetti, and you have a clear winner. Not that they taste the same or you’d use them in the same recipes, it’s just a fact.
So, how do you make this thing?
Start by preheating your oven to 400. While you’re waiting, cut your squash in half, longways. Y’know, so you cut the stem in half, not so you chop off half it’s height. Hotdog way, not hamburger way. Then, take a spoon and scoop out the core and seeds.
After that comes a fun part! Drizzle each half of the squash with olive oil, then generously sprinkle salt pepper on it. Like, way more than you think you need. This is what gives the squash the only flavor its going to get, so make sure you put enough that it doesn’t cook off. Then, rub it all in! Don’t be afraid to get your hands messy.
So, the next step is just to put your squash halves face down on a cookie sheet, and stick ’em in the oven for 40 minutes. This is how they’ll get soft enough for you to scrape the spaghetti out later! Now while that cooks, we can focus on the most delicious part:
Your topping is made of almost anything your little heart can think of. The standard recipe calls for ground chicken, mushrooms, diced tomatoes, onion, garlic, and fresh basil. However, in my version, I swapped out the ground chicken for ground beef. You can do the same, or switch out any of the veggies for something you prefer. Some people hate tomatoes, so you can double up on mushrooms instead. If you’re vegetarian, you can cut the meat and double up on mushrooms. If you hate basil, use oregano. Yes, the flavor will change a bit, but the beauty of the spaghetti squash– it welcomes many different flavors wholeheartedly. If you choose to do the recipe with meat and similar veggies to mine, here’s whatcha do next:
First, brown your onions and garlic. Be patient, it took me a little longer than I thought it would. And it smells strong, but delicious! Once that’s done, add your meat, and wait for it to cook almost completely, if not completely. Add some salt and pepper and then after that, you can pretty much add the mushrooms, tomatoes, and basil in any order. After this, these ingredients will simmer for a while, at least ten minutes. Ideally, the same amount of time that the squash still has to cook in the oven.
They say that healthy meals come from the outer perimeter of the grocery store, and they’re colorful. This recipe hits both those nails on the head. Look at those gorgeous red tomatoes and bright green basil!
Next comes the most fun part: spaghetti-ing the spaghetti squash!
Once the squash is done in the oven, you get to make the spaghetti! Get your squash out of the oven and flip it over. You’ve got two little bowls for your dinner! Now you get to take a fork, and stir up your spaghetti! Best part, hands down. When I made this recipe for the first time, I’d never seen a spaghetti squash before, just heard all the buzz, so it was like, kind of a big deal. I was surprised at how easy it was to pull the fibers apart. However, I think I may have overcooked mine a little, because it was a little too mushy. So next time I make this, I might go for a half hour in the oven instead of 30 minutes. It might be a little more pasta-textured that way.
Again, not that it tastes like pasta. I would not lead anyone to believe that this is a pasta replacement. It is not. I don’t take pasta lightly, people.
Finally, after you’ve made your spaghetti, you can add the topping! Place it on top of the spaghetti, or mix it all together so you get a nice, balanced bite each time. Obviously, it’s easier to just place it, but more delicious to mix. The squash doesn’t have much flavor on it’s own, so it’s less tasty to eat a full layer of the good stuff, and a full layer of squash.
I’m so excited for you guys to try this recipe! Again, it’s hearty and filling, and completely healthy! It’s packed with vitamins and will keep you feeling satisfied for hours. Plus, did you see how easy that was? Anyone can do it, even a twenty-something fresh out the college dining hall.
Comment below and tell me how your version of this recipe comes out!
- ½ lb. ground beef or chicken.
- ½ onion- red, white, or sweet. Your choice!
- 6 cloves garlic
- 8 basil leaves, chopped
- 4 large shiitake mushrooms, chopped. Double up if you're not using meat.
- 1 can diced tomatoes- garlic, oregano & basil variety
- Olive oil
- S&P to taste
- Shredded Mozzarella to taste
- Preheat oven to 400.
- Cut spaghetti squash in half longways, remove core. Coat generously in olive oil, S&P. Place on cookie sheet, bake 40 mins.
- Make topping while squash cooks. Drizzle frying pan with olive oil. Brown onion and garlic. Add meat and S&P to taste. Add mushrooms, basil, and diced tomatoes. Let simmer for at least 10 mins on low setting.
- When squash is done baking, use a fork to scrape fibers from the side so it looks like spaghetti. Top with the mixture from the frying pan, sprinkle with cheese.
- Cook at 400 for 10 more minutes, or until cheese is melted. Enjoy!