The first step in changing my family’s diet was transitioning from a SAD (Standard American Diet) to a GF (gluten-free) diet. In the beginning, I traded our traditional pasta for GF pasta. My family took to it well. Aside from the denser, chewier texture of the GF noodles, it was still “spaghetti” to them. But as I’ve said, just because something is GF does not mean it is healthier. Packaged GF food does not have more nutrients than standard food, but removing the gluten eases digestion (which is extremely important). The GF pasta served us well for many months, but the more I learned about nutrition, the more I wanted to find opportunities to serve my family FWBs (Foods With Benefits). Spaghetti Squash Casserole is a perfect example of such an opportunity. Exchanging standard or GF noodles for spaghetti squash “noodles” means that the entire base of this casserole is a vegetable! Sure, my kids were a bit leery at first, but I gave them a heads up about the change in texture (a bit “crunchier”) and flavor (slightly more sweet). Because the spaghetti meat sauce and cheese taste is still there and familiar, they took to it pretty well. And, now, they’ve accepted that this is our version of spaghetti and really like it. I hope your family enjoys it too!
Spaghetti Squash Casserole
- 1 spaghetti squash
- 1 lb ground beef (preferably grass-fed)
- 1 jar quality marinara sauce (This is the busy mom version. By all means, make your own sauce if you can! If you go with the jarred, read the label to check for minimal, quality ingredients and low sugar content. Absolutely no high fructose corn syrup.)
- 2 cups (more or less) of favorite grated cheese (Use judgement on how much cheese to include. When I first started making this dish I included more cheese to appeal to my kids’ taste as we transitioned. Now I include less.)
Prepare spaghetti squash “noodles.” Cut spaghetti squash in half. Careful – it’s tough to cut through. With a spoon, scoop out seeds and stringy part from the center of each half. Rub each half (skin included) with coconut oil or melted butter. Bake face down on a lined cookie sheet at 350 degrees for approximately 30-40 minutes (outside skin should not feel totally hard or totally soft – somewhere in the middle). Turn halves over and let them cool. Once they’ve cooled a bit use a fork to scrape the noodles out. Like this:
While the spaghetti squash is cooking – brown the ground beef. Feel free to add your favorite spices. Once it’s done, drain and add it to your spaghetti sauce.
Mix your spaghetti squash noodles with the meat sauce and pour into a greased baking dish. Top with cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until heated through and cheese melted.
***If you REALLY want your family to eat the squash version, add 4 oz softened cream cheese into the warm meat sauce before you mix in the squash noodles. This makes it so creamy and delicious!