A Squared: Meatless Monday: Caprese Spaghetti Squash Bake

Monday, April 21, 2014

Meatless Monday: Caprese Spaghetti Squash Bake

I don't know how or why it took me so long to discover spaghetti squash, but in the past year or two it has really become a go to ingredient for meals that are inexpensive, low carb, and/or meatless-- three qualities I am always looking to have a little more of in my weeknight dinners! Because of its noodle-like quality, I love to prepare spaghetti squash in ways that I would normally make pasta. I think it lends itself really nicely to recipes like that.


This time around, I made a caprese spaghetti squash bake. It's super flavorful, and crispy on the top, but soft and cheesy on the inside. The ingredients here are pretty simple and aside from the time involved in pre-roasting the squash, this is a super easy recipe too! Fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil give this bake its signature caprese flavor. I also love the addition of some nutty Parmesan cheese (which helps to bind it together) and spicy pepper flakes and sweet roasted red peppers, which add another nice flavor dimension. Topped with a crunchy herb, panko, and Parmesan crust, this is the perfect vegetarian casserole.


This recipe makes several servings-- we had enough for Alex and me to enjoy as a main course for dinner and then for me to eat for lunch several more times that week. I ate this casserole as my main course and it was a great and filling meatless dinner. My husband prefers a little meat with his dinner, so I served his with some leftover meatballs. This would also be a really nice side dish for a simple marinated and grilled chicken breast too. And if you wanted to bump up the protein in this dish (without the addition of meat), you could certainly add a beaten egg to the squash mixture (which would help to bind the casserole together too) or I think that chopped pine nuts would be a great addition to the topping as well.


Ingredients:

  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, divided
  • 1/3 cup roasted red peppers, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp. dry Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Carefully slice the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop membranes and seeds out of the center of each half. Drizzle the flesh with 1 Tbs. olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and place flesh side down on a baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes and then carefully turn each half over and roast for an additional 10-25 minutes (depending on the size of the squash) until fork tender. Remove from oven and let the squash rest until cool enough to handle.

Using a fork, scrape the flesh of the squash away from the skin. It should created separated spaghetti-like strands. Transfer the flesh of the squash to a large bowl and discard skins. You may want to take a dishtowel and gently squeeze the squash flesh at this point-- it will pull some of the moisture out of it.

To the bowl of squash, add 1 Tbs. olive oil, tomatoes, mozzarella, 1/4 cup Parmesan, red peppers, bails, pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper.

Using 1/2 Tbs. of olive oil, lightly coat a 2-qt. baking dish. I used a round one, but next time would go with a rectangular 9" x 13" instead as the edges will crisp up better. Pour the squash mixture evenly into the prepared baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan, 1/2 Tbs. olive oil, panko, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder. Sprinkle over the top of the squash mixture and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, until the crumb topping is golden.


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