I love cooking in the winter. As the days get colder and shorter, and I start craving warming comfort food, the kitchen becomes a haven. Usually the stovetop is slowly simmering marinara sauces and stews and the oven is cranking out delicious sugary baked goods. A year ago today, I was (at least) 23 lbs heavier. As we head into the holiday and colder blistery New England winter, I'm determined to find new healthy favorites that are just as comforting as the heavy dishes I used to devour. I look to seasonal produce to help inspire me. Italian dishes are undoubtedly comfort food to me, but pasta certainly isn't on my go-to "healthy" list. Luckily, high carb and calorie pasta can be easily substituted with spaghetti squash.
Spaghetti Squash is considered a winter squash. They can be identified by their tough skins as opposed to summer varieties like zucchini. Like butternut, acorn, kabocha, pumpkin, and delicata squashes, you should easily be able to find these at a grocery store this time of year. They also are featured in Winter Farmer's markets that pop up after the holidays.
Spaghetti Squash gets its name for its resemblance to spaghetti pasta after its been roasted and the flesh removed. Its low in carbs and calories, and high in vitamins. A cup contains only 42 calories and 10 carbs so you could definitely go for seconds and thirds without feeling guilty! The stuff is just really delicious, if you haven't tried it, introduce yourself to it this week!
I've made spaghetti squash with bolognese before, but this week I wanted to try something different, like a pesto. Traditional pesto is made with basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts and olive oil; and you can't really go wrong with that. While you can certainly find basil in the grocery store this time of year, its definitely more of a summer flavor. I made several variations of pesto this summer with a variety of greens from our farm share. Kale, being one of my favorite greens, and also in season, would make the perfect base! Out of pine nuts, I opted for raw, unsalted cashews I had. Everything else would remain the same.
Roasted cherry tomatoes complete the dish as the acidity helps to cut through the richness of the pesto. They are just popped in the oven towards the end of the squash roasting and make a beautiful garnish. I love how they look like bright little rubies standing out against the green pesto. It's very Christmas-y!
So here's how to whip this dish up.
The first thing you have to do is roast the squash. Pre-heat your oven to 375°. Using a heavy kitchen knife, carefully cut the spaghetti squash down the middle and remove the seeds. Place cut side up, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for around 45 minute or until fork tender.
While the spaghetti squash is roasting, you can whip up your pesto. Add kale, cashews, garlic, a squeeze of lemon and Parmesan cheese in a food processor and pulse until everything has broken down in tiny bits. Then, slowly drizzle your olive oil in, blending until smooth. Use a spatula to scape everything out into a separate bowl.
Next prepare the cherry tomato topping. Depending how much tomato you like, slice a handful or so of cherry tomatoes in half. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for easier clean up. When the squash only has 20 mins left, pop the tomatoes in the oven to roast.
One the squash is ready, everything will come together really fast. Pull the squash and tomatoes out of the oven and let cool so the squash is easier to handle. Using a fork, start scraping at the flesh and pull out the "spaghetti". All that should be left is the tough skin that can now be discarded. In a bowl, toss the spaghetti squash with half of the pesto. Save the rest for later use (you can freeze it) or add a bit more to the spaghetti squash. Just be mindful of the portions, between the oil, nuts and cheese there is a lot of calories and fat in pesto, luckily its mostly the healthy kind and your serving it with squash that virtually has none.
Serve in two bowls and top each with the roasted cherry tomatoes. If you'd like, garnish with a few chopped cashews for extra crunch.
- 1 spaghetti squash
- 2 tbs olive oil
- salt and pepper
- ½ cup cashews (plus some extra for garnish later)
- 2 medium cloves garlic
- 3 cups kale, washed, chopped and packed tight
- ½ cup grated parmesan
- ½ cup olive oil
- juice from half a lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Roasted Tomatoes
- 1 Pint Cherry Tomatoes
- 1 tbs olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dry)
- Preheat oven to 375
- Cut spaghetti squash in half the long way. Remove seeds.
- Drizzle with 1-2 tbs olive oil and season with salt and pepper
- Roast in oven for 45 mins
- Meanwhile, add kale, cashews, garlic, Parmesan cheese and lemon juice into blender and pulse until kale and cashews are in tiny pieces.
- While pureeing, slowly add up to 1/2 cup olive oil, until pesto is smooth.
- Scrape into another bowl and reserve for later.
- Cut cherry tomatoes in half. Toss with a tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt, pepper and thyme.
- Place in oven the last 20 mins that the squash is cooking.
- When squash is done, let cool a few minutes before handling.
- Using a fork, scrape out all the "spaghetti" like flesh until only the tough skin is left.
- Toss half of the pesto in with the squash, and serve in two bowls.
- Top with roasted tomatoes and garnish with a few extra chopped cashews if you like.