Winter took its sweet time coming to Colorado this year. Only recently did temperatures really drop and stay dropped, and as such my family and I have been turning to those foods that tend to bring comfort as the weather gets colder. Thankfully, comfort food doesn’t always have to be heavy or make you more likely to pack on the pounds (yuck). Squash is one of my all-time favorite winter foods, because what’s cosier than seeing beautiful, earthy colors deepen as they brown in a hot oven on a cold, snowy day?
Even before I discovered that I was gluten intolerant, I was never really a huge fan of pasta. Squashes, even spaghetti squash, never felt like a direct substitute for me; instead, squash worked its way into my diet in a fairly organic way. Pasta purists out there will decry spaghetti squash and zoodles as poor substitutes, but I’ve never found much success in trying to replicate something you love with something that you don’t. I’ve gained an appreciation for squash in its own right, and know that the key to enjoying squash-based meals is in learning to work with their natural flavors and consistencies rather than trying to reinvent the spaghetti wheel.
That said, this dish hits on a lot of the same feel-good properties that the right bowl of pasta can deliver. This easy dinnertime meal is super satisfying, and has quickly become one of my favorites out there. It’s rich but simple, with bold, complex and unexpected flavors that come together to make a truly tasty suppertime dish. This is a great way to warm up wintertime blues, and is an impressive and fulfilling dish all on its own.
Traditionally, I’ve cooked my spaghetti squash by slicing it in half, de-seeding it and coating lavishly with oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder until it’s easy to pull apart with a fork. This time around, I decided to do a little more research, and found that Buzzfeed (of all places) posed a solution to the sogginess of cooking squash in the traditional fashion. Instead, I ended up cutting the squash into rings (an imperfect art, to be sure, and not for the faint of heart or weak of hand). This allowed the water to bake out of the squash rather than absorb into it, and left me with longer strands that were less gooshy and more crisp. I wouldn’t quite call it al dente, but it’s close enough.
Without further ado: on to the recipe!
Supergreen Spaghetti Squash with Pancetta, Shallot and Goat Cheese
Time Required: Approx 45 minutes
Skill Level: 🔪 (Easy)
2 Medium Spaghetti Squashes
1/3 lb pancetta
1 box (~5 oz) mixed baby spinach and kale
3 oz goat cheese
1 small shallot, sliced thinly
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp red wine or champagne vinegar
Salt and pepper
Garlic powder (optional)
Pine nuts (optional)
Note: this recipe is flexible and totally adaptable! Other great add-ins include pine nuts and sundried tomatoes, which can be added just before serving. It can be made nut-free with the omission of pine nuts, though I wouldn’t advise making it dairy free as the tanginess of the goat’s cheese really elevates the other flavors of the dish.
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by covering with aluminum foil, then drizzle with olive oil.
2) Prepare your squash. Note: the squash may be a bit difficult to cut, and doesn’t need to be precise. Slice into approximately 1 – 1 1/2 inch rings, then use knife or spoon to de-seed the interior.
3) Place squash on the baking sheet and slide around to coat with olive oil. Drizzle additional oil over the top of the squash, or use a basting brush to brush additional oil overtop.
4) Season squash with salt, pepper and garlic powder, then pop into the oven. Cook time will be approximately 25-30 minutes. Note that you may need more than one baking sheet to fit all rings.
5) While squash cooks, heat a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Roughly slice pancetta into strips and squares, approx 1 inch or as desired. Peel, halve and slice shallot into thin strips.
6) Add pancetta strips and cook on low for about 15 minutes, until the fat begins to render and pancetta crisps up. If you substitute bacon, note that this will take much less time. Turn up heat for another 2-5 minutes, until pancetta starts to brown and get crispy. Add shallot and cook for another 2 minutes.
7) Add vinegar and stir to deglaze pan. Reduce heat to low, then add maple syrup and stir to coat, until combined. Begin adding supergreens mix, cooking until just wilted. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to add in installments. While waiting for greens to cook down, proceed to step #8.
8) Remove squash from the oven and let cool slightly. Once cooled, slice the skin and peel off. I like to do this into a warmed serving bowl to prevent it from losing too much heat. Use fingers to separate squash strands and add to bowl. Once all squash bits are added, pour stovetop mixture over the squash and stir to combine.
9) Top with squash and stir to combine, adding a few more crumbles on top if desired. Serve immediately!