I have tried this recipe several times, and it’s been cheered by a number of people. This is a great vegetarian recipe. It’s not a recipe I found online, but a recipe provided to me by my mother, who got the original recipe from her old Moosewood Cookbook (her exact version of the cookbook seems now to be out-of-print), then modified by me to better suit my laziness and my preference for nonperishable ingredients, so let’s put an ingredients list up front, shall we, especially as it’s a long one? Get ready to raid your spice cabinet and messy the kitchen.
- 1 whole spaghetti squash
- 1 cup of chopped onion
- ½ lb (8 oz) of sliced mushrooms
- 2 medium cloves of crushed garlic (or garlic powder)
- ½ tsp oregano
- 1 tsp basil
- ¼ cup of freshly chopped parsley (or 2 tsp of parsley flakes)
- 2 fresh tomatoes (or a small can of diced tomatoes to save time)
- 1 cup of breadcrumbs
- 1 cup of cottage or ricotta cheese (I’ve always used ricotta)
- 1 cup of grated mozzarella cheese
- Parmesan cheese to taste
- butter or cooking spray (I usually use cooking spray, and anywhere that I say to “butter” in these instructions, you can substitute “lather with cooking spray.”)
*If you’re missing some of these spices, don’t fret overly much. I would try it anyway. I’m not sure I’ve once made this recipe with parsley because for whatever reason it’s not in the house.
Sometimes, you’ll be lucky enough to find spaghetti squash on a deep discount at your local grocery store—and when you do, this becomes a fairly inexpensive but impressive crowd-pleaser.
I learned by sheer accident that in a dry cabinet, a spaghetti squash will keep for several months. These pictures are from this past June. That squash had been in our cabinet since probably February at the latest.
I was particularly fortunate in this hardy squash. It was more squash than I could fit in just one of my baking dishes, and I had to scrounge in the cabinets to find a second—meaning I got lots of meals out of this one night of baking.
First, a good, long knife is needed to cut the squash in half, lengthwise. Perhaps some of you will be strong enough to manage this Herculean feat without a hack, but I am not, though I keep trying. I liberally poke holes in the squash skin with a fork, the way you do when baking a potato. Then I microwave the whole squash for about two minutes. This softens the squash enough to make it easier to coax a knife through—even if it still requires some wiggling and leveraging to crack the squash.
Scoop out the seeds (so it looks like the squash half on the left).
Butter a cookie sheet (usually just one suffices—unless like I did, you find yourself with a rather enormous squash) and bake the squash, hollowed inside down, at 375 F for about 30 minutes.
It will come out super hot, and you will need to be able to handle the squash before you can finish the process. Like too many of my recipes, this one always takes longer to prepare than I expect it to—waiting for the squash to cool especially takes longer—and I am slow to learn. I think ideally, these first steps ought to be done the night before and the squash set aside to cool. The process could probably be sped by putting the squash into the refrigerator. I am impatient and frequently end up handling my squash gingerly through oven mitts—which keep me from being burnt, but the squash is still uncomfortably hot.
Now you’ve got your squash baked. How about some fixings to make this a proper casserole?
Sauté 1 cup of chopped onion (which is about ½ of a small onion) with two medium cloves of crushed garlic (or a liberal dusting of garlic powder), salt and pepper to taste, ½ pound of sliced mushrooms (this is one of those 8 oz packages—I use fresh mushrooms, not canned), ½ tsp of oregano, 1 tsp of basil, a dash of thyme, and if you have it, my mother’s recipe calls too for a ¼ cup of freshly chopped parsley or 2 tsp of parsley flakes.
When the onions are soft and beginning to become more translucent, add the freshly chopped tomatoes—or I usually use a can of mostly drained diced tomatoes. Continue to cook the lot in the pan until most of liquid evaporates. I’m pretty sure it’s almost impossible to overcook this, but if it starts to blacken, you’ve probably left it on too long. Still, I left mine on the stove a good long while this past time after not draining my canned tomatoes enough.
Good? Got all that cooked up?
Scoop out the insides of the squash into a big old bowl (you can toss the skins) and combine everything: the squash, the sauté, the breadcrumbs, and the cheeses (except the Parmesan—that’s for later). Stir it all up.
Pour all that into a buttered casserole dish (or two if you need to do). Top the lot with Parmesan because more cheese is never a bad thing and because it’ll give the casserole a nice, crispy, golden brown crust.
Bake all that at 375 F, uncovered, for about 40 minutes, and your vegetarian casserole should be ready to wow. It’ll look a little soupy in places. It’ll be a little soupy in places. But it’ll be delicious—or I hope you’ll find it so.
All photos are mine and can be enlarged by clicking on them.