Italian Spaghetti Squash Bake

This Italian Spaghetti Squash Bake is a take-off on a fabulous baked rigatoni recipe I used to make for events back in D.C. - the kind of events where you need to feed a large group of people on a budget, but it doesn't taste that way.

I would bake two giant aluminum trays filled with layers of rigatoni pasta, ricotta cheese, provolone, meat sauce and parmesan and by the end of the night, they were absolutely picked clean - right down to the last cheese-covered noodle.

Since my pasta days are behind me, I now substitute spaghetti squash for pasta in all my recipes. (I've always been more about the sauce and toppings than the pasta anyway!) Instead of loading up on three kinds of cheeses, I went for a little of the good stuff (goat cheese) and added olives and mushrooms. If you don't like goat cheese, try part-skim ricotta.  

Give this recipe a go and add your favorite Italian-inspired ingredients! If you like it on pizza, it would probably be good in this! My favorite pizza toppings are sausage, mushroom and olives - can you tell? Next time, I'm going to try adding chopped marinated artichoke hearts to the dish for a piquant little kick.


serves 5-6

INGREDIENTS

1-2 tsp. olive oil

1 whole spaghetti squash, roasted, seeded, flesh removed

1 c. sliced cremini mushrooms

1 lb. grass-fed beef, Italian chicken sausage or turkey sausage

1 c. marinara sauce (I used Trader Joe's Tomato Basil Marinara)

2-3 oz. ricotta cheese or goat cheese

1/3 c. sliced black olives, drained

1 tsp. dried oregano

fresh basil, roughly chopped

salt & fresh black pepper, to taste

Optional: fresh grated Parmesan 

 

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray an 8x8" glass dish with olive oil spray.

2. Add a light drizzle of olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove from skillet and set aside. 

3. Add ground meat to skillet and cook until browned, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Set aside to cool slightly and drain off any excess liquid.

4. In a large bowl, combine roasted spaghetti squash, black olives, mushrooms, browned meat, marinara sauce, oregano, and ricotta or goat cheese. Stir to combine. Season lightly with approx 1/2 tsp. sea salt and a few generous grinds of black pepper. Taste and adjust as necessary.

5. Pour spaghetti squash mixture into prepared baking dish. Add a sprinkle of grated Parmesan to the top. Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly. Top with chopped fresh basil and serve.

COOK’S NOTES: For more of a “pizza” flavor, top with about 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella and add couple ounces of diced pepperoni to the spaghetti squash mixture.