Friday, April 22, 2016

Foodie Fridays: Spaghetti Squash and Pasta with Chicken-Vegetable Sauce

Recently I decided it was high time I tried cooking a spaghetti squash.  I am attempting, slowly but surely, to reduce the amount of carbohydrates I eat, and I know that this squash is often used in recipes to replace pasta.  I was not so sure I was ready to abandon pasta completely, but I figured I could start by replacing half of the spaghetti with squash.

This is a spaghetti squash
(from Steamy Kitchen).

After finding an excellent post on how to cook spaghetti squash in the oven, I gave it a go.  As warned, this cucurbit was extremely hard, like a pumpkin or butternut squash, and I found it difficult to get my knife all the way through.  I ended up whacking the knife into the skin, then turning the squash over and banging the whole thing, knife side down, against the cutting board and letting the weight of the squash itself push the knife through.  I had to do this twice to get both the top and the bottom cut through, but eventually it split into two not quite even halves (next time I may have to dig out my machete for this task!).

Once the spaghetti squash is cut, it is an easy process to remove the seeds and roast the halves.  Some people prefer to roast the squash whole and remove the seeds afterward, but if you do this be sure to prick the squash well with a fork, because it can explode in the oven and if you are not careful you could end up with some nasty burns!

The vegetable-laden sauce is quick and easy, and if you prefer a vegetarian version just leave out the chicken.  Any pasta sauce will work, including homemade, but be sure to taste for seasonings as you may want to add some salt and/or pepper.  Use any vegetables you like as well.  Next time I think I will use half the amount of pasta, because the hearty sauce and spaghetti squash made this dish quite filling.  In fact, some day I may even be able to eliminate the pasta entirely from this dish!

Spaghetti Squash and Pasta with Chicken-Vegetable Sauce

1 spaghetti squash
8 oz. spaghetti (or any pasta), cooked and drained
2 T. olive oil
1 large onion, cut into short strips
1 large bell pepper (any color), cut into short strips
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 bag (5 oz.) fresh baby greens (any type)
2 C. pasta sauce (any kind)*
2 C. diced cooked chicken

Cut the spaghetti squash in half and scrape out the seeds with a spoon.  Lay the halves, cut side down, in a baking pan (mine fit into a 13x9-inch pan).  Add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan by about 1/2-inch.

Roast at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes depending upon squash size.  Check on the squash after 30 minutes, pricking with a fork (if it is done it pierces easily).  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Using a fork, scrape the cooked flesh from the squash into a large bowl by running the tines crosswise rather than lengthwise in the shell.  Stir in the cooked pasta with a little olive oil until well combined.

Heat the 2 T. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook for a couple of minutes.  Stir in the bell pepper and cook for about 5 minutes more.  Add the mushrooms and cook for a few more minutes.  Stir in the greens and cook until wilted.

Reduce the heat to low and pour in the sauce.  Add the chicken and stir until everything is well combined and heated through.  Stir in the squash/pasta mixture and serve.  Serves 6-8.

*I used Classico Creamy Tomato & Roasted Garlic Sauce.

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