Today I’m excited to share an easy plant-based meal that’s as healthy as it is delicious. Let me start off by saying that I am in no way against traditional pasta. While it has been demonized and many people won’t touch it with a ten foot pole, I think pasta can actually make for a very nutritious meal, and I eat it often. However, there’s no denying that pasta is dense and there are times when I want something a little lighter, especially after the holidays. Enter spaghetti squash! With a mild flavor and pleasant texture, it’s the perfect canvas for a savory tomato sauce. Although it’s very low in calories (under 50 calories per cup), I find spaghetti squash to be very satisfying, particularly in the the cold winter months.
If you’re thinking that spaghetti squash is a pain to prep, I get it (it used to intimidate me and I never bought it), but I assure you it’s easy! You have three options for cooking it: One is to cut the squash in half and bake it, two is to bake the squash whole, and three is to microwave it. Obviously the easiest route is to throw it in the microwave, but I think it’s worth the additional time and effort to bake it in the oven. In terms of baking it whole vs. cut, if you have a suitable knife, I recommend cutting it in half. For a long time I never bothered and always baked it whole, but after some researching, I learned that cutting the squash allows it to caramelize a bit and results in a more “al dente” texture, whereas baking it whole essentially steams it and leaves you with a softer, wetter texture. Either way works just fine with a sauce, but I prefer firmer “noodles.” It also takes less time to cook when cut in half. The one caveat is that you need a very good, large knife, otherwise cutting through the squash will be nearly impossible. I have been there and it wasn’t pretty!
When it comes to tomato sauce, I love adding mushrooms and lentils for a hearty, healthy, and filling combo. Mushrooms are meaty and a good source of antioxidants, and lentils–packed with protein, fiber, and a range of vitamins and minerals–are a nutritional all-star. You could use dry lentils in this recipe and cook them first, but I’m all about easy, so I go with organic canned. Aside from chopping the veggies, there’s not much more to this sauce! Just throw everything in a pan and let it cook. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
So tell me, are you a fan of spaghetti squash? What are some of your favorite spaghetti squash recipes to make at home?
- 1 large spaghetti squash
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 large onion
- 1 10-oz package cremini (aka baby bella) mushrooms
- 1 25.5-oz jar of basic tomato sauce (I used Muir Glen’s organic tomato basil)
- 1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 14-oz can lentils
- 1 tsp basil
- 1/2 tsp oregano
For the squash
- Preheat oven to 425
- Line a baking sheet with tin foil and spray it with a bit of olive oil.
- If baking the squash whole, pierce the skin in several places and place it on the baking sheet. Bake for about 45-60 minutes, until a knife easily cuts through the skin and flesh. If the squash is very large, it may take longer to cook. Let the squash cool for a few minutes and then cut it in half lengthwise. Remove all the seeds and pulp. Use a fork to pull out spaghetti-like strands of squash.
- If baking the squash cut, use a large, sharp knife to cut the squash in half lengthwise. If you make shallow cuts along the area you want to cut, the knife should go in a little easier. Scoop out the seeds and pulp. Rub a little olive oil onto each of the squash halves and then place them cut-side-down on the tin foil.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until a knife easily cuts through the skin and flesh. If the squash is very large, it may take longer to cook. This is optional, but I like to turn the squash halves over and let them bake facing up for a few minutes, to crisp up the flesh a little more. Let the squash cool for a few minutes. Use a fork to pull out spaghetti-like strands of squash.
For the sauce
- Lightly coat a saucepan with olive oil
- Chop the garlic and onion and add to the pan, cooking on medium-low for about five minutes, stirring occasionally
- Chop the mushrooms and add them to the pan and stir. Let the vegetables cook for another few minutes.
- Add the jar of tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, lentils, and spices, and simmer for about 30 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
- Top spaghetti squash with sauce.