When it comes to eating healthy, it may seem hard to find easy, delicious and hearty comfort foods that are healthy. Enter Spaghetti Squash Lasagna for Two.
Okay, maybe “lasagna” is a stretch. But since it’s a spaghetti squash, split in half and stuffed with all those characteristic lasagna comforts of hearty Italian red sauce and melty cheese – why not? It’s hearty and comes together quickly since we soften the squash in the microwave and fully cook the lasagna stuffing on the stovetop.
During a Big Sky ski trip, 7 of us sharing a condo and taking turns making dinner, Dan and Susan introduced us to the concept of stuffing spaghetti squash. It's sooo delicious!
I admit to having little to no spaghetti squash eating or cooking experience before this trip.
Since then, playing around in the kitchen, a "keeper" recipe is born. Easy, customizable, and stuffed with comfy ingredients, making a weeknight dish perfectly portioned for two.
JUMP TO THE SECTION TO LEARN:
- INGREDIENTS TO MAKE SPAGHETTI SQUASH LASAGNA
- HOW TO PREPARE AND MAKE AHEAD
- WHAT IS SPAGHETTI SQUASH
- STUFFED SQUASH FLAVOR PAIRING GUIDE
INGREDIENTS TO MAKE SPAGHETTI SQUASH LASAGNA FOR TWO
Hearing about spaghetti squash may put you in the frame of mind for pasta, however, it is in the same family as other winter squashes and can be used in a variety of ways. Looking at these yellow, oblong squash, you would never know that inside are hundreds of sweet noodle-like strands that resemble spaghetti.
These “noodles” can be used to replace pasta noodles in variety of dishes. This is a good first recipe if you’ve never sampled spaghetti squash before.
Our version adds a toasted panko topping, inspired by a pasta recipe I found on Americas Test Kitchen.
Spaghetti squash is easy to customize, pick your choice of protein such as Italian sausage, ground turkey (my favorite), or a plant-based meat substitute like beyond meat Italian sausage - all work great!
Here's what you will need to make this recipe when cooking for two.
FOR THE SPAGHETTI SQUASH
- Spaghetti squash – We will use the squash both as our serving bowl and the cooked fruit or ‘spaghetti’ as part of the stuffing.
- Olive Oil
- Salt& Pepper
FOR THE TOMATO SAUCE
- Protein of your choice – Ground turkey, beef or chicken, Italian sausage, or plant-based meat substitutes work too!
- Yellow onion
- Garlic cloves
- Marinara Sauce – use a really good store-bought sauce. I like to use a spicy spaghetti sauce such as a spicy red pepper.
- Dried oregano, balsamic vinegar, and red pepper flakes – adding a pinch makes the jarred sauce taste like homemade.
- Provolone cheese – feel free to use a mix of melty cheeses like mozzarella or fontina. All are great options.
FOR THE RICOTTA FILLING
- Ricotta cheese – part skim, or any percent of fat will work just fine.
- Parmesan cheese
- Spaghetti squash ‘spaghetti’ (from the same squash as the “bowl”)
- Italian Seasoning – use store bought or make your own with a mix of dried seasonings such as basil, oregano, rosemary, marjoram and thyme.
- Garlic Powder
- Juice of one lemon
- Spinach – keep it easy and use frozen spinach. Make sure to thaw and drain in a fine mesh strainer, squeezing out any excess water.
TOASTED LEMON PANKO TOPPING
This topping is totally optional, I like the bright lemon notes it brings to the dish.
- Panko bread crumbs – these time-saver bread crumbs can be found next to other bread crumbs or in the Asian food aisle at your local grocery story.
- Zest of one lemon
- Olive Oil
HOW TO PREPARE AND MAKE AHEAD
Making Stuffed Spaghetti Squash Lasagna takes a few simple steps: cooking the squash, making the ricotta filling and the hearty Italian “meat” sauce. You can opt to use a plant-based meat substitute or skip the meat to keep this vegetarian.
The toasted lemon panko topping elevates the dish making it feel a bit more elegant with little effort, but is not necessary.
- Cook the squash in the microwave to cut the cook time in half!
- Meanwhile, prepare the meat sauce, heat the oil in a small skillet, sauté the onion and garlic until onion begins to soften. Add ground turkey (or meat/protein of your choice) cooking until browned. Pour in the pasta sauce, add oregano, vinegar and red pepper flakes.
- Remove the cooked squash from the microwave oven. Using a fork separate the strands and place them in a mixing bowl. Combine the ricotta stuffing ingredients with the squash ‘spaghetti’.
- Fill the squash: Place the squash halves cut side up on a baking sheet. Add the ricotta stuffing mixture, then layer with the meat sauce. Top with cheese and bake until heated through.
- Garnish with chopped basil and toasted panko. Enjoy!
MAKE AHEAD TIPS
To Make Ahead: Before topping with toasted lemon panko, wrap the stuffed squash in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
To Serve: Bake in a 350-degree F oven until heated through, about 30 minutes, then top with basil and toasted panko.
I do not recommend freezing this dish, as frozen spaghetti squash tends to become mushy and watery once thawed.
Do This: You can freeze leftover sauce separately and use it to top pasta or freshly baked spaghetti squash later.
WHAT IS SPAGHETTI SQUASH
Spaghetti squash or vegetable spaghetti is large, yellow, oblong winter squash that is harvested in the fall. Yet, it can be found in grocery stores year-round. When cooked, the fruit of the squash falls away from the flesh in ribbons or strands, a healthier substitute that looks a lot like spaghetti.
Low in calories (40 in one cup), low-carb, and high in fiber - there really is no downside to using these as “noodles” unless you have a squash allergy!
What does spaghetti squash taste like? Spaghetti squash has a very mild, almost neutral flavor with a tender texture like a cooked rice noodle. It's not nearly as strong in flavor as other winter squash, like acorn or butternut squash. So, what I notice more about it is the texture.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
When shopping for spaghetti squash, look for firm, golden yellow or dark yellow color, and should a squash that feels heavier than it looks! Be on the lookout for soft spots or cracks or bruising in the skin.
Also, if the flesh or stem easily falls or tears from the rind, it’s a sign that the squash may have spoiled and the taste will be off.
For this recipe I look for a medium size. Remember we will split the squash in half – so image each half is the size of your ideal noodle bowl stuffed with squash noodles, Italian red sauce and cheese. If it looks too big then it is! I am always surprised how much stuffing the cavity of a smaller spaghetti squash can hold.
HOW TO CUT
Cutting squash can be difficult. To make it easier we will first soften the squash in the microwave then we will cut our spaghetti squash into two halves.
- Grab a fork or sharp knife, carefully poke a few holes in the skin of the spaghetti squash so steam can escape.
- Now, microwave your squash for about 5 minutes. Leave it in the microwave and let cool until it’s no longer too hot to touch.
- Lay your squash on a cutting board and slice long-ways down the center, from the tip of the stem to the bottom of the squash. You may need to rock the knife back and forth very carefully, or use a rubber mallet to tap on the knife to make it easier to cut through.
- Once cut in half, use a metal spoon to scoop out the seeds from the inside of your halves. Some of the ‘spaghetti’ may come up while you do this, which is fine. Throw away the seeds, as they will not be used in this recipe. However, the seeds are edible and can be roasted as you would pumpkin seeds.
HOW TO COOK
- After cutting the squash in half, we will brush olive oil on the cut edges and in the cavity. Sprinkle the cavity with salt and pepper.
- Place the cut haves in a microwave safe dish and cover. You may need to stack your squash halves and use microwave safe plastic wrap to loosely cover the squash, as we want some of the steam to escape.
- Microwave for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, you can begin preparing the stuffing!
- Stuff the cavity with your stuffing of choice and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, until the cheese is melty, and the stuffing is bubbling.
HOW TO STORE
Spaghetti squash is a hearty vegetable and theoretically, as long as you keep it in a cool, dry spot, it could last a few weeks before you cook it.
Its tough, thick skin makes it hard to tell if it’s “ripe”. If you plan on cooking it within a day or two of when you buy it, you don’t need to worry about letting it ripen on the counter.
STUFFED SQUASH FLAVOR PAIRING GUIDE
Are you looking to try making some new stuffed squash recipes? Check out this Stuffed Squash for Two Flavor Pairings chart to discover some unique and amazing flavor and ingredient combinations.
Here are some other stuffed squash recipes to get your started:
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Spaghetti Squash Lasagna For Two
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For the Spaghetti Squash
- 1 medium spaghetti squash
- 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil divided
- Salt& pepper to taste
For the Tomato Sauce
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil extra virgin
- ¼ cup yellow onion chopped
- 3 garlic cloves thinly sliced
- ½ pound ground turkey ground beef, ground chicken, or a plant-based meat substitute works too.
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 12 ounce jar good-quality marinara sauce, such as Classico Spicy Red Pepper Spaghetti sauce
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 ½ teaspoons Balsamic vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
For the Ricotta Filling
- 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese or low fat 1% or 2% cottage cheese
- ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese shredded
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Juice of one lemon
- 1 cup frozen spinach drained and pressed as dry as possible
- ½ cup Provolone cheese – feel free to use a mix of melty cheeses like mozzarella or fontina – feel free to use a mix of melty cheeses like mozzarella or fontina, all are great options.
Toasted Lemon Panko Topping (optional)
- ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs – these time saver bread crumbs can be found next to other bread crumbs or in the Asian food aisle at your local grocery story.
- Zest of one lemon
- ½ teaspoon Olive Oil
- Basil chopped (optional garnish)
For the squash:
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grab a fork or sharp knife, carefully poke a few holes in the skin of the spaghetti squash. Now, microwave your squash for about 5 minutes. Leave it in the microwave and let cool until you can comfortably hold it with your hand. Slice the squash long-ways down the center, from the tip of the stem to the bottom of the squash, scoop out the seeds and discard. Brush olive oil on the cut edges and inside the cavity. Sprinkle the cavity with salt and pepper. Place the cut halves in a microwave safe dish and cover. Microwave until the ‘spaghetti’ is fork tender and pulls away easily from the flesh, about 15 minutes.
For the meat sauce:
- Meanwhile , heat the oil in a small skillet, sauté the onion and garlic until onion begins to soften. Add ground turkey (or meat of your choice), ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper. Using a spatula or wooden spoon break apart the meat into small pieces, until fully cooked and browned, about 4 minutes. Pour in the pasta sauce, add oregano, vinegar and red pepper flakes. Stir and simmer for 1 minute. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Remove from heat.
For the ricotta filling:
- Place spinach in a large mixing bowl. Use a fork to separate any large clumps. Combine the remaining ricotta filling ingredients: ricotta, parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. When the cooked squash is cool enough to handle, use a fork to separate into ribbons resembling ‘spaghetti’ and place into the ricotta filling mixing bowl.
Fill the squash and bake:
- Place the squash halves cut side up on a baking sheet. Add half of the ricotta stuffing, then layer with the meat sauce. Dollop remaining ricotta a top lasagna. Sprinkle with cheese and bake until heated through, about 15 - 20 minutes.
For lemon panko topping (optional):
- Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add panko, salt, and pepper to skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until panko is golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer panko to medium bowl. Stir in lemon zest and basil.
- Garnish with chopped basil and toasted panko. Enjoy!
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