Spaghetti Squash “Pasta” Bake

It’s 61 degrees today in Brooklyn. In January. Ummm, oookaaaay. My apartment is a tad bit warm from roasting the spaghetti squash and then baking the “pasta” dish. But, hey, my dinner is done and I just need to reheat it later on this evening. I love it when a plan comes together. Also, I realized that there is a better way to cook spaghetti squash. My friend, Molly and I were just talking yesterday about struggling to cut the squash in half and how comical it was. Newsflash: pierce squash all over with a fork and cook in the microwave for 12-15 minutes, or, in a baking dish in the oven at 400 degrees for 60 minutes. SO. Much. Easier this way! Also, I used my favorite jarred Muir Glen pasta sauce because it’s Sunday and I’m feeling a little lazy.

  • 1 cooked spaghetti squash
  • 1/2 the jar of pasta sauce
  • 1/2C panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2C (or more) of grated pecorino
  • Italian herb blend
  • Crushed red pepper

Let the cooked squash cool (or be a doofus and burn your hand like I did earlier), then use a spoon to scoop out the innards and seeds, discard those. Then, use a fork to scrape out the squash, add it to a large mixing bowl. Add the sauce and stir until combined. Add mixture to an 8×8 baking dish. Combine the breadcrumbs, cheese and herbs, sprinkle on top of the spaghetti squash mixture. I added a bit more pecorino romanao cheese too Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, or, until the topping is browned and bit crispy.

Kale, Black Bean and Sweet Potato Salad with Spicy Avocado Dressing

Kale, black bean, onion, sweet potato salad with spicy avocado dressing!

Kale, black bean, onion, sweet potato salad with spicy avocado dressing!

I was going to make guacamole, but decided to make a creamy and spicy avocado dressing for a kale salad. (I’m trying to be good and eat lighter dinners. We’ll see how long that will last. wink). I also added a can of black beans and half of a diced sweet potato. I think this salad would also be good with some corn and roasted pumpkin seeds, but I didn’t have either on hand.

For the salad:

  • 1 head of lactino kale
  • 1/2 of a roasted sweet potato
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4C. minced white onion
  • 1/2 of a red/orange/yellow bell pepper, chopped

For the Dressing:

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • juice of one lemon
  • handful of chopped cilantro
  • 1/2tsp chili powder
  • 1/4tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4C olive oil (eyeball it, you may want to use more to have a thinner dressing, or use water to have a thinner dressing
  • 2TB water

Make the dressing: I used my mini food processor (which is an awesome addition to my kitchen). Add avocado, oil, lemon juice and spices and blend until creamy. You may have to add a little bit more oil (or water) to thin out the dressing. Adjust spices to your taste.

Thoroughly rinse and pat dry kale leaves. Fold leaves in half, then cut into strips a few times so the kale is in bite-sized pieces. Add chopped kale to large bowl, drizzle with dressing and massage into the kale until it’s well coated. Add remaining ingredients and toss. Add some crumbled Bulgarian feta too…that might be good. I wish I had thought of that when I made the salad!

My Baked Macaroni and Cheese

I think one weakness of mine is my mom’s baked macaroni and cheese…all gooey with a crispy breadcrumb topping, sprinkled with some paprkia. Yum. When I was a kid, however, I didn’t give it enough respect because I liked that florescent orange stuff from a box (Sorry, Mom). It took a few years for me to appreciate my mom’s version, and well, nothing comes close to it. The version of my own below is a pretty good substitute because she and my dad live a few hours away in another state and they’re not here right now. I think the next time I go home I will request that she make macaroni and cheese. See, mom? It’s a win-win. We get to see each other AND enjoy a nice dinner!

  • 1 lb. of gemeli or small shells (or, macaroni/small-sized pasta), cooked
  • 2 C. cheddar cheese, shredded (I used low-fat white Cheddar and NY State Sharp Cheddar)
  • 1/2 C. grated pecorino-romano
  • 1 3/4 C. milk at room temperature (not cold)
  • 1/4 C. half and half
  • 5 TB unsalted butter
  • 5 TB flour
  • 1-2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1-2 tsp smoked paprika (or, hot if you like)
  • dash of onion powder (or, garlic if you prefer it)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 – 1/2 C Panko bread crumbs for topping, toasted

Coat a 9×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cook your pasta, drain, put in a large bowl and set aside.
Make the roux: In a medium-sized saucepan over low to medium heat, melt the butter, then add the (carefully measured) flour. Whisk this until it’s smooth and there are no lumps of flour.

Make the cheese sauce: Slowly add the milk to the roux, whisking all the while. (You don’t want cold-from the fridge milk because I think it’s too much of a shock for the roux.) Continue to whisk for a couple minutes or, until the mixture starts to get thicker. (Don’t let it go until it gets to a paste consistency!). Add the cheeses and keep whisking until the cheese is melted and you have a nice and creamy sauce. Add the spices and mix well. UPDATE 2.16.16: I realized that sautéing the breadcrumbs in a few tablespoons of butter first and then sprinkling them on top of the pasta and cheese worked out better (that way the mac and cheese isn’t in the oven too long and won’t dry out b/c you’re waiting for the crumbs to brown on top.

Pour cheese sauce over cooked pasta and stir until the pasta is thoroughly coated. Put pasta in the baking dish and sprinkle the breadcrumbs and a little bit extra grated pecorino Romano cheese. Bake, uncovered at 400 degrees until it’s bubbly and crispy–about 15-20 minutes. Now you have dinner for the week, or, you can invite a few friends over for dinner. Enjoy!

Before baking.

Before baking.

Mmmm, fresh from the oven. Dinner's on!

Mmmm, fresh from the oven. Dinner’s on!

Some other variations: I think this would be really good with some dried jalapenos added to the cheese sauce, or, add some crushed red pepper for a kick. If you wanted to be more healthy, you could probably add some steamed broccoli florets or some steamed kale or spinach.

Spaghetti Squash Mac and Cheese


I love mac-n-cheese, but sometimes I don’t want to eat pasta. So, enter the lovely (and seasonal!) spaghetti squash, which I’ve used in the past in place of pasta with tomato sauce or pesto. If you’re one of those weirdos (kidding!) who say, “Oh, yuck. I hate squash,” you just might change your mind when you try this. Trust me, if you add enough cheese sauce…you’ll be won over.

  • 1 spaghetti squash, halved, seeds/innards removed*
  • 1 C. steamed broccoli florets
  • 1 C. reduced fat cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 C. grated pecorino romano
  • 1 TB butter
  • 1 TB AP flour
  • 1 C. milk (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • 1 tsp hot paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 C. panko bread crumbs (optional)

Update: I just learned that rather than struggle with cutting a spaghetti squash in half, one can poke a bunch of holes in it with a knife or fork and microwave it whole for 12-15 minutes until soft, OR, roast in a baking dish whole for an hour (also poke holes in it). That is SO much easier than pretty much using a machete and almost cutting off a finger.

Cut squash in half and either spray with cooking spray or, rub a bit of olive oil on the squash. Bake, halved side up on a baking sheet for about 50-60 minutes (or, until the squash is tender and fully cooked (ie: soft) at 400 degrees. Let squash cool off until you can handle it. Using a fork, scrape out the insides of squash–it should look like angel hair pasta. Add to steamed** broccoli in bowl and set aside.


Make the cheese sauce: Over a low heat, melt the butter in a small/medium sized sauce pan, add the flour and whisk out any lumps, add the milk and the cheeses and let it simmer. Add the ground mustard and paprika too. Whisk until a smooth sauce forms. Pour cheese sauce over squash and broccoli, stir until well-coated. Now, at this point you can serve and eat it, but, I went a step further. I put the mixture in an 8×8 baking dish, topped with a tablespoon of grated pecorino and the 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs and baked it for 30-40 minutes at 400 degrees until it was brown and crispy on top.

Spaghetti Squash Mac and Cheese!

Spaghetti Squash Mac and Cheese!

*Wait! Don’t discard those squash seeds! You can eat them! Remove them and rinse in a colander, making sure to get all the bits of squash guts off of them. Pat dry with a paper towel and put ’em in a bowl. Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil to coat them, sprinkle a little salt and maybe some crushed red pepper, spread on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, or until toasted.

**I’ve found that I’m too lazy to use a stovetop steamer, so, I put the broccoli florets in a microwave-safe bowl with a bit of water, cover the bowl with wax paper and nuke it for a minute and a half. I don’t like wilt-y broccoli; I still want it with a slight snap…thus the brief cooking time

Kale, Chickpea and Shaved Pecorino Salad with Lemon

Firstly, I realize that I have several kale recipes on my website. BUT, in my defense, they are all delicious. Though, in having so many recipes, I think I’ve become a Brooklyn stereotype. But, hey, I don’t care because my appetite at lunch yesterday while working from home was sated.

  • 1 bunch of dinosaur kale, thinly chopped
  • A handful of raw almonds, toasted, then chopped
  • 1 can of chickpeas, rinsed*
  • 2-3 tsp of olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • shaved pecorino
  • salt and pepper to taste

Note, I find that if I massage the kale with the oil I use less oil. So, then, massage olive oil into the kale leaves until they are well-coated, add remaining ingredients and toss. You can add some lemon zest too, but, for me, the juice was just perfect.

*Now that I think of it, this would kick it up a bit if the chickpeas were roasted in the oven and then cooled slightly. Hmmm…next time!