Italian Spaghetti Squash Casserole

Italian inspired, spaghetti squash casserole is an easy recipe for the family who loves lasagna. This quick and satisfying casserole is great for weeknights. It’s a great make-ahead freezer recipe so make extra!

Italian spaghetti squash bake

Recipe Highlights

  1. The flavors of lasagna in an easy weeknight casserole with spaghetti squash.
  2. Naturally gluten-free and easily converts to a vegetarian entree.
  3. A good source of protein, low in calories, 7 Weight Watchers Points Plus per serving.

Italian spaghetti squash casserole

This is a story about redemption.

Redemption achieved by learning from one’s mistakes. This is also a story about spaghetti squash.

Not every meal in our house is noteworthy. On an average day our dinners are healthy, filling, and for the most part, attractive. However, one evening I made a meal with none of those attributes, and that one was utterly embarrassing. Mortified as I was, I did not apologize, and boy-oh-boy, did I learn a few lessons. It was not until later that I realized, by serving the meal anyway, I was following the wise advice of none other than Julia Child.

Italian spaghetti squash casserole
Some time ago, I had a brilliant idea for a luxurious pasta meal but it flopped, completely and utterly. In my mind, we were going to dine on creamy carbonara with plump bits of smoked salmon. Sounds good right? I was looking forward to the first creamy bites, until, somewhere between concept and delivery, the execution turned ugly.

To make a terribly embarrassing story shorter, I ruined a beautiful piece of home-smoked salmon by combining it with slimy, mushy, canned salmon.

Italian spaghetti squash casserole
I hoped the rich creamy carbonara sauce I was going to bathe the noodles in, would make up for the unappealing protein; it didn’t. The sauce turned out watery and, thanks to the canned fish, an unappetizing pink color. Truth be told, the finished pasta looked more like something we had already eaten than something we had yet to taste. I was so ashamed I couldn’t even be bothered to clear the toys strewn across the table before setting out the plates.

That night, with the sting of shame still prickling, I picked up my current read, Julia Child’s My Life in France. In chapter 2, she tells the story of serving her friend, “the most vile eggs Florentine one could imagine.” She says, “I made sure not to apologize for it. This was a rule of mine.”

The wit, and wisdom, of Julia Child, was the salve I needed to see the dinner debacle for what it was, hilarious and educational. My attempt at spaghetti squash carbonara with smoked salmon was a disaster. We all did our best to stomach a small portion but no one considered a second helping. For some, now forgotten reason, I set my mind to embellishing a dish I had never attempted in its most simple incarnation and I went wrong at nearly every turn.

spaghetti squash bake

With the disaster clearly in my rearview mirror, I picked up another spaghetti squash. “This time,” I told myself, “keep it simple sweetie.”

I was in the mood for lasagna but I wanted something healthier and with far fewer steps (and dirty dishes).
With the spaghetti squash as a base, I sprinkled Italian sausage over a creamy Ricotta mixture and poured over homemade tomato sauce and more cheese.

Not only did this incarnation of an Italian pasta dish made with squash, look good enough to eat, in the midst of his first bite, Mike exuberantly declared, “you nailed it!”

Italian spaghetti squash baked in the shell

Ah, redemption, sweet (or, in this case, savory) redemption. It sure does taste good.




Spaghetti Squash Casserole
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Italian inspired, spaghetti squash casserole is a lighter recipe for the family who loves lasagna. This easy & healthy recipe is great for weeknights. Make this dish even easier by preparing some of the ingredients in advance*. Omit the sausage for an indulgent vegetarian side or main course.
Author:
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 3-4 lb spaghetti squash
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 lb Italian chicken sausage (may substitute any uncased Italian sausage)
  • 15 oz low-fat Ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend - divided (may substitute part-skim mozzarella)
  • 1 large egg
  • ⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F and have a 3qt or 9x13 casserole dish standing by.
  2. *Pierce the squash with a fork 4-6 times deep enough to allow steam to vent from the inside of the squash. Place the squash in the microwave on high heat for 12 minutes*. Handle the cooked squash with care - it will be extremely hot. Once the squash has cooled enough to handle, split the skin from stem to end. Remove the seeds and thin membrane with a spoon. Use a spoon or fork to remove the meat of the squash, shredding it gently as you place it into a bowl. Toss the squash “noodles” with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Set aside.
  3. While the squash is cooking - Brown the sausage in a large skillet over medium high heat. Break the meat into crumbles as it cooks. It is finished when no pink remains and the largest crumbles have turned golden brown around the edges. Transfer cooked sausage to a paper towel lined dish and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix together the Ricotta cheese, spinach, ½ a cup of shredded cheese, egg, and nutmeg.
  5. Once all the ingredients have been prepared: Scoop 6 cups of squash into an even layer at the bottom of the casserole dish. Spread over the Ricotta mixture then cover with an even layer of crumbled sausage. Finish with an even layer of marinara sauce. Cover tightly with foil before baking in the hot oven for 30 minutes.
  6. After 30 minutes the dish should be bubbling up around the edges. Remove the foil and sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese. Return to the oven to continue baking for 15 minutes. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.
Notes
*To reduce the amount of prep-time on the day of cooking, squash and sausage may be prepared up to 3 days in advance.
**To prepare squash in the oven: Bisect and remove the seeds then place face down on a baking pan. Roast in a 425F oven for 30-45 minutes until the squash is tender and shreds easily.
***To serve in squash shells: After scooping out the squash reserve the shells. They should hold about ½ of the ingredients. Layer ½ of the ingredients into a smaller 8x8 baking dish then divide the remaining ingredients in to the squash shells. Place the shells in a second baking dish then cover both dishes with foil and bake as above.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 cup Calories: 257 Fat: 12g Carbohydrates: 20g Sugar: 7g Sodium: 850mg Fiber: 5g Protein: 22g Weight Watchers Points Plus: 7

 

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