Weeknight CookingWhat to CookChickenItalian CookingWinterComfort Food

Take a Spaghetti Squash Boat to Warm, Cheesy Nirvana

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Winter is the time to break out your best comfort food recipes. We turn to stews and braised meats and casseroles laden with cheese. There's lots of baked pasta and thick soups on our table these days, and I crave dishes like shepherd's pie and beef bourguignon.

I'm always on the lookout for good weeknight recipes that have all the comfort and coziness of classic winter dishes, but without quite so much time required. I also like to find recipes that are filling but not so heavy: vegetable-centric but still nourishing, with enough meat to satisfy my fiancé but plenty of greens to ward off winter colds and keep us eating well.

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Photo by Posie Harwood

Today's recipe fits the bill in every way. Not only does it check those boxes, but it's infinitely adaptable. Case in point: My version uses ground chicken, but you could easily use ground turkey or ground beef. If you like your dinner extra cheesy, go heavy on the cheese. If you want a tomato-less version, leave it out and add more kale! Don't have kale? Swap in another leafy green.

Rub your squash with tomato paste, pesto, aioli, etc, etc...
Rub your squash with tomato paste, pesto, aioli, etc, etc... Photo by Posie Harwood

If you're vegetarian, make my pesto version (which is a favorite in our household): Leave the tomato puree, the ground meat, and the dried herbs out of the filling, and toss the squash filling with 1 cup of pesto. Rub the inside of the squash with pesto, too, for good measure. If you're not feeding a family, you can easily save the extra filling and eat it over the course of a few days.

To get the strands all spaghetti-like, roast the olive oil-rubbed squash in the oven for about 45 minutes. Photos by Posie Harwood

The idea for the recipe comes from Sprouted Kitchen, a blog I've long admired for the flavorful yet wholesome recipes Sarah Forte writes. She made a lasagna-style spaghetti squash, served inside the shell just like this, and a light went off for me. No serving bowls! Brilliant! Squash instead of noodles! Extra brilliant!

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Mix the ingredients with the squash, and return to their boats.
Mix the ingredients with the squash, and return to their boats. Photo by Posie Harwood

Of course, you don't have to serve the dish in the squash bowls. You can just toss the filling together and bake it in a casserole dish until the cheese bubbles. But if you're like me, the novelty of using the squash as a bowl will be too fun to pass up, plus it won't dirty an extra bowl. So...everyone wins, including the cook.

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Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Bowls

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Makes 4 squash bowls
  • 2 spaghetti squash
  • 1 pound ground chicken (or turkey or beef)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large bunch kale, washed, trimmed, and cut into 1" pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 cups shredded fresh mozzarella, divided
  • 8 ounces fresh ricotta
  • 2 cups grated fresh Parmesan, divided
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 2 cups tomato puree
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
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Tell us your tales of spaghetti squash, in the comments below.