The Kitchen Prep: Mediterranean Spaghetti Squash Casserole

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mediterranean Spaghetti Squash Casserole

Have I ever told you the story of how I started cooking? {Is there any story I haven't told you?!}

Yup, it's true. I wasn't always into cooking, but I have always loved baking. In fact, I used to bake cupcakes back in the day during my college years and take them down to the neighbors' apartment for no particular reason.

Did I mention that one of my then neighbors turned out to be my now husband? They must've been some good cupcakes. ;)

But I digress.

While baking came naturally to me {even though it wasn't until after college that I stepped away from the boxed cake mix}, I was never very comfortable with cooking. Something about all the "pinch of this and dash of that" really freaked me out. So I stayed within the comfort zone of measurements and exact oven temperatures for the most part.

Right after Steve and I got married, we were visiting with his family, which we do pretty often since they only live a 45 minute drive away. As we sat around the table chatting, his sassy Aunt Fran {who recently turned 90!!} decided to pry ask us questions {some that would make you blush} about life as newlyweds.

I'll never forget it. There we were, eating and talking, enjoying the company and still all glowy from being newly married, when Aunt Fran asks, "So, does Dianna cook for you?"

Now, cooking wasn't my top skill at the time I'll admit, but during all the years we lived together I'd never let the guy go hungry, so I figured I was in the clear.

You can imagine my shock when I heard my sweet husband very frankly answer his Aunt with, "No... not really." Nearly fell out of my chair.

Our ride home that evening seemed a lot longer than 45 minutes. I could barely put the words together to ask what in the world he had been eating for the past 3 years of living together. Once I could muster the words without cursing, Steve confessed that he didn't consider casseroles & one pot meals "cooking", necessarily.

What the.

That week, as a complete joke, I made a 5 course dinner. I can't for the life of me remember what I made. I'm pretty sure I was possessed by the spirit of Julia Child for an evening. I wanted to make sure that I "cooked" thoroughly enough for it to be considered "cooking" in Steve Land.

And you know what? I enjoyed it so much, I couldn't stop.

So thank you, honey, for accidentally helping me discover a passion I never knew I had. I was determined to prove my skills, and I think I have over the past 3 years of our marriage.

But now that you know I can, indeed, "cook"... we're having a casserole for dinner. And I just know you'll love it.

Mediterranean Spaghetti Squash Casserole

1 medium spaghetti squash
2 cups arugula or spinach {I'm sure thawed frozen would work, too}
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup low fat or fat free cottage cheese
1 egg
1 cup marinara sauce {homemade or storebought}, divided
1/2 cup grated parmesan, divided
10 black Greek olives, pitted and chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil.

Puncture spaghetti squash a few times with a sharp knife. Place on sheet pan and bake for about 1 hour {should be tender when pierced with a knife}. When finished baking, remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

Cut in half and carefully scrape out seeds. With a fork, scrape the squash to separate flesh into "strands" and place in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. Add grated garlic to pan and cook for about a minute, careful not to burn. Add arugula or spinach and sautee until just wilted. Remove from heat and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, add 1/2 cup cottage cheese and egg. Process until almost smooth. {Ricotta cheese consistency} Set aside. 

In a large bowl, combine squash, sauteed greens, cottage cheese mixture, 1/2 cup marinara sauce, 1/4 cup grated parmesan, chopped olives, oregano, and basil until well incorporated.
Spray a glass baking dish with lightly non-stick cooking spray.  Spread squash mixture evenly in baking dish. Spread remaining marinara sauce evenly over squash mixture. Sprinkle with remaining parmesan. Lightly spray with olive oil. {Or drizzle if you don't have a Misto.}

Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil, and continue baking for 15 more minutes or until bubbly and slightly browned.

Serve hot.


JulieD said...

Ooh that looks so good and I love the new look of your site!!

The Kitchen Prep said...

Thank you, Julie! The casserole was good.. even for picky husbands. ;) It tasted like a fake-out lasagna, and any time you can trick my taste buds into thinking their eating copious amounts of pasta and cheese, I'm a happy girl!

Ladybug said...

Can I use ricotta cheese in the recipe instead of cottage cheese? If so, should I omit the egg? We are going to try to make this today or tomorrow. Thanks :)

The Kitchen Prep said...

@Ladybug - I think ricotta would be a good substitute. Using cottage cheese was my attempt at making faux-ricotta to keep the calorie count down, but originally I wanted to use ricotta. :) I would still add the egg as I think it would help bind the casserole. Let me know how it turns out for you!

Ladybug said...

Thanks! Will do! :)

Anonymous said...

My husband doesn't believe in eating dinners sans meat. Do you think some ground lean beef would taste good in the mix?

The Kitchen Prep said...

@Anonymous - Absolutely! I don't eat red meat, so if I were to add a little something extra it would be some Italian chicken sausage or ground turkey meat, but I'm pretty sure lean beef would work just as well. Hope you & the husband both enjoy it!

Anonymous said...

I made this and it tasted awful-like soap. Was my spaghetti squash to big? Do they taste better if they are small? We did use a smaller one in place of spaghetti pasta and it tasted great.

The Kitchen Prep said...

@Anonymous - Oh, no! It should definitely not taste like soap. I'm not sure what the reason would be for that... and honestly, I'm not entirely sure about the size of the squash affecting the taste! If the smaller squash tasted better, I would stick with those from now on. Is it possible you used too much oregano? I know that can have a strong taste if overused. Just a thought. I'm glad you got a good result after changing things around a bit! :)

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