Sunday, November 16, 2014

Spaghetti Squash Mac and Cheese

Spaghetti squash is one of my favorite things to make because it's easy, makes a good amount of leftovers for easy meals, and helps me get more vegetables in my diet. I was a little scared of it the first time I tried it, because while I love broccoli, peas, and carrots, I'm not someone who's really into "trendy" healthy food (kale? Why is that a thing?) but since I heard it tasted a lot like actual spaghetti, the pasta lover in me decided to give it a whorl.

Now, it's on the top of my list of things I like to cook.  Since it can make a lot of servings, especially depending on the size of the squash, it can get kind of boring to eat as an average spaghetti dish, like with tomato sauce and meatballs, so I decided to get creative with it.  I'd seen some cheesy spaghetti squash recipes online before, so I decided to try mixing it with my favorite homemade macaroni and cheese recipe, and it was delicious.  So I decided to share it with the internet.

Spaghetti squash:

I always use the recipe from A Beautiful Mess, and I've always had great results, so here it is, with some lovely pictures to illustrate the steps.

1. Cut open the squash.  This is actually the hardest part of the entire recipe, but I had the genius, if I do say so myself, idea to use one of those pumpkin cutters from the kid kits sold in grocery stores ... and my life has now completely changed for the better.  It's so easy.

2. Scoop out the seeds and loose innards, add a light layer of olive oil.

3. Bake at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes.  The edges will usually be slightly browned.

4. Using a fork, start scraping at the squash.  It comes apart in thin strands, just like spaghetti!  The first time I did this, I thrilled that it worked, even though I'd already seen pictures of it.

Like I said before, this can be eaten like traditional spaghetti with some warm sauce.  It's also easily thrown in the fridge and heated up, so it can be done early if need be, since the cooking time is rather long.

Cheese sauce:

Recipe adapted from my old Betty Crocker cookbook.  It makes enough cheese sauce for a little more than half of a large squash.

You'll need:
-2 tbsp butter
-1/8 cup chopped onion (or as little or much as you like, depending on how much you like onions, I usually use less)
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/8 tsp pepper
-2 tbsp flour
-3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp milk
-4 oz cubed cheddar (or whatever cheese you prefer)

This time around, I forgot to take nice pictures for the steps... whoops! But it's pretty self explanatory.

1. In a medium skillet, cook and stir butter, onions, salt, and pepper on medium heat, until onion is tender.
2. Stir in flour over low heat, until smooth and slightly bubbly.
3. Remove pan from heat, and add the milk.
4. Return pan to heat, then heat to boiling.
5. Let boil for one minute, stirring constantly -- the sauce should be thickening.
6. Remove from heat, and stir in cheese cubes until they melt.  My cheddar was that orange/yellow color, hence the slightly fake-cheese look in the picture above.  If you use white cheddar, it looks a little more homemade and classic.

7. Put spaghetti squash in a small casserole dish.  I tried to figure out what size mine is for comparison, but it doesn't have a size on it anywhere.
8. Pour cheese mixture over squash.  I recommend adding about half, stirring it in, then add the rest, and stir once again.  It also might be helpful to stir with a fork, because that will help break up the thin squash strands, and give a more even coating of cheese.
9. Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes, until lightly browned.
10. Serve warm!

I made some green beans to make it even more of a veggie meal, and some tasty baguette toast that I bought at a Eugene bakery.  This makes at least two servings, or more depending on what you pair it with.  Last time I made it, I mixed steamed peas into the cheesy squash when I reheated it, and that was really good.

I think there are a variety of ways to mix it up: add cubed ham, bits of bacon, chicken, etc. Spaghetti squash is also a great pasta alternative for people who are gluten free, and although I haven't tried it, I think that gluten free flour could easily be substituted to make this a gluten free dish.  Note: the flour is used as a thickener in this recipe, and if gluten free flour doesn't have those capabilities, it might not work.  Though Brian is gluten free, he doesn't like baked goods, so I'm not too well versed in how gluten free flour actually works.

Hope you give my recipe a try! If you like cheese, you'll definitely like it. 

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