I don’t know about you, but I love pasta – any type of it. I just don’t love all the empty calories that come along with this particular starchy Italian food. Growing up, my mother cooked some variation of an Italian pasta dish at least once a week. I always devoured her pasta dinners and had no difficulty going back for second and/or third helpings until halfway through high school, when all carbohydrates became the enemy.
Remember the South Beach Diet and Atkins Diet trend? I, regrettably, jumped on the bandwagon and eliminated all “bad” and “empty” carbohydrates. I only lasted a few months because how can anyone truly do away with carbs? I’m weak and Italian – that kind of diet just wasn’t going to work for me. While I obviously delight in the taste of pasta, its nutritional value – or lack thereof – always leaves me feeling guilty for indulging in the food. That’s all changed though, in thanks to the spaghetti squash and the genius that decided to substitute it for spaghetti (or other types of pasta).
Spaghetti squash has changed my foodie life. In addition to the fact that it provides a healthy, light, and tasty alternative to regular pasta, it has facilitated an Italian cooking experiment in my kitchen. Over the past couple of months, I’ve been cooking with the squash almost once a week and I have yet to be disappointed with the results.
This past week’s spaghetti squash experimentation resembled that of a BLT with a cheesy, creamy twist. In essence, I used ricotta cheese, a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese, bacon, cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil (which can be substituted with spinach if you’re looking for the authentic “L” in BLT). It was an amazing, creamy, salty, comforting dish that I’m craving as I write.
Now here’s some nutritional info your gluteus maximus will be more than glad to hear: there are only 205 calories per serving, or 820 calories for the entire dish. On the contrary, if you used spaghetti instead of squash (about five yielded cups, the amount of one medium spaghetti squash), the calorie count per serving would come out to about 440 calories, or 1,755 calories for the entire fare. It may have taken over ten years, but my carb-fearing subconscious and my Italian taste buds can now live and eat in harmony.
Cheesy, Bacon Spaghetti Squash
-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
-1 tbsp margarine
-1 medium spaghetti squash
-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
-1 medium shallot, chopped
-1 cup of fresh basil leaves, chopped (once chopped, the basil condenses a bit)
-1 cup of cherry tomatoes, quartered
-6 slices of bacon, cooked
-1/2 cup of light ricotta cheese
-2 tbsp of shredded mozzarella
-1/4 cup of panko breadcrumbs
-Dash of red pepper flake
-Salt and Pepper to taste
-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the spaghetti squash lengthwise, remove the seeds, sprinkle with salt, and place cut-side down in a baking dish (I used a pyrex dish). Fill the dish about a quarter to a third of the way up with water. If you are a salt freak like me, you can add more salt to the water. Bake for 45 minutes (cooking times will vary depending on the size of the squash and your oven).
-With about 15 minutes left in the spaghetti squash’s cooking time, in a large pan, sauté the garlic and shallots in the olive oil for a few minutes on low to medium heat, or until the garlic has turned a golden color. Add the tomatoes and basil, increase the temperature to medium to high, add salt and pepper to taste, and cook for about ten minutes. You want to make sure the tomatoes don’t add too much water to the mixture, so if this is the case, just sauté the contents a little longer until the water has steamed off. Keep the pan on the burner on low heat and continue to stir the contents until it’s time to add the other ingredients.
-Once the spaghetti squash is cooked, remove from the water and set it aside to cool before scraping out the squash. You don’t want to burn yourself, so make sure you let both sides cool for around ten minutes.
-In the meantime, it’s time to cook the bacon. I bake my bacon because it eliminates a majority of the entire mess. Line a cooking sheet with foil, place about six slices of bacon on the sheet, and cook at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. Once the bacon has cooked, chop into small to medium sized pieces.
-Scrape out the spaghetti squash with a fork and place in a bowl. Add the tablespoon of margarine and salt and pepper to taste and stir into the squash.
-Turn the burner back to medium to high heat and add the spaghetti squash to the garlic, tomatoes, shallot, panko bread crumbs, and basil. Stir in the ricotta cheese, shredded mozzarella, bacon, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook on medium heat for about five minutes to make sure all the ingredients are incorporated. Let cool before digging in!
If you like spaghetti squash, check out my recipe for spaghetti squash lasagna !