I first tried this dish at True Food Kitchen and fell in love with the light textures and fresh flavors of this dish. After recently switching to a plant based diet, I was thrilled when the restaurant allowed me to substitute their house made dairy free almond ricotta instead of a traditional mozzarella topped version . I will admit, I rarely eat spaghetti squash, and had never even cooked it before. I will be cooking spaghetti squash a lot more now that I have been inspired with this fabulous, light tasting casserole which is so filling and just bursting full of texture and flavor.
One of the things I love about this recipe is the make ahead factor. The sauce is not even cooked until final assembly. All of the components, like the roasted spaghetti squash, spiralized/julienned zucchini, caramelized onions, sauce, and even the almond ricotta (for a non dairy version-almonds must be soaked a day ahead-recipe link below), may be made and prepped ahead and stored separately until final assembly. The assembly of the dish takes just minutes to warm in a skillet and then the casserole may be popped in the oven just to melt or warm the cheese.
Spaghetti Squash Casserole Recipe:
Time: about 1 1/2 hours total not including the overnight soak for almond ricotta
Serves 6 generous portions – as pictured above this is a half a recipe baked in an 8 inch by 10.5 inch by 2 inch deep dish, I saved the remaining half of the cooked or prepped ingredients to make another smaller casserole a few nights later. If making the full casserole recipe all at once, use a 9×13 casserole dish when ready to bake.
For the Sauce:
1 28 oz. can Blanco or other brand of Organic Crushed Tomatoes
1-2 cloves of Garlic, peeled with brown root end cut off of the clove
1/2 tsp. Dried Oregano or 1 tsp. Fresh Oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste
1-Tbls. Olive Oil (omit if oil-free version is desired-will still taste great)
For the Squash:
1 Spaghetti Squash around 4-5 pounds, split in half lengthwise and seeded (roast the seeds separately with olive oil and salt for a nice snack)
2 Zucchini Julienned or spiralized (I used a Kitchen Aid spiralizer-thin blade)
2-3 Tbls. of Fresh Parsley, or Basil, or Thyme for garnish (or use a combination of and or all, dried or fresh)
1 Onion Caramelized (Dice one medium to large sized yellow onion and sauté in a pan with 1-2 Tbls. of oil, or water for oil-free version, on medium-low heat for 30 minutes or until brown and soft-can add a few teaspoons to taste of honey, maple syrup or brown sugar to speed up the process). I ran out of olive oil so I used the liquid that remained on my sheet pan after roasting the spaghetti squash.
2 Tbls of Olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and fibers attached to the seeds. Save the seeds to roast for a delicious snack. If using oil, rub a small amount of olive oil just to lightly coat the inside of the spaghetti squash halves and sprinkle salt and pepper on the inside as well. For an oil free version omit the oil, it will be fine. Lay the two halves cut side facing down on a sheet pan lined with parchment for easy clean up. Roast until al dente-approximately 40 minutes. You do not want to overcook. Use a spoon or fork to scoop out the spaghetti squash strands once slightly cooled. The squash may be roasted and cooked a day ahead and refrigerated until needed.
While the spaghetti sauce is roasting, caramelize the chopped onions in a skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil or for an oil free version water or vegetable broth so the onions do not stick. If you have liquid left over from the roasting of the spaghetti squash, you can use that as well. Add sweetener of choice to help with the browning and to add some sweetness. This should take about 30 minutes or so on medium low heat. This can be made a day ahead.
Blend all sauce ingredients in blender until almost pureed with some slight texture to the tomato. This can be refrigerated and made a day ahead if necessary. Keep the sauce uncooked, it will be cooked further later.
Spiralize or Julienne the Zucchini
Heat a large sauté pan with 2 Tablespoons of oil or water. You can even use any liquid that was on the sheet pan after roasting the squash. Add the cooked and separated spaghetti squash strands which were scooped out of the skin, julienned zucchini, tomato sauce and caramelized onions till combined and just heated through. Place mixture in a casserole dish and top with mozzarella cheese or almond ricotta if desired. Please see my blog or the link below for the almond ricotta recipe: https://wordpress.com/posts/dawnielovestocook.wordpress.com
Place casserole dish uncovered in a 400 F degrees oven until mozzarella cheese is melted and has a slight color or almond ricotta is heated and just warmed through. Once the cheese is melted and browned (mozzarella) or warned through ( almond ricotta), finish the dish with some chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, basil , thyme or a combination of one or all three. If you do not have fresh herbs used dried.
Almond Ricotta is so easy to make and is a great non dairy alternative. Almond Ricotta can sell for up to $9.00 for a 4 oz package at Whole Foods Market, but you can make it at home for a fraction of the price. The recipe does require a high speed powerful blender and just a little planning ahead. To create the creamy, dreamy texture of ricotta, the almonds must be soft, so an overnight soak of raw slivered blanched (skins removed) almonds is ideal. There are quick soak methods, using hot water to soften but I have always done an overnight soak. Once the soaking is done and the almonds are drained and rinsed, the blender does all of the work. Almond Ricotta may be dotted onto a baked pizza, or used to finish pasta dishes. Once the ricotta is added then place the pizza or pasta back in the oven just to warm the ricotta. Pictured above is a Spaghetti Squash Casserole which was warmed in a sauté pan, placed in a baking dish, topped with the cold Almond Ricotta and heated just to warm in the oven. I finished the dish with some freshly chopped basil. Preparing nut cheese requires food safety. I always keep my almonds in the refrigerator during the soaking process and also refrigerate after the Ricotta is made. The Ricotta is perishable so keep in refrigerated for no more than 3-4 days.
Recipe-Yields approximately 1 cup of Almond Ricotta
Time: 8 hours/overnight soak, plus 5 minutes to blend and
1 cup of raw blanched slivered almonds
Spring Water for soaking and for blending (approximately 1-2 cups)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Place blanched slivered almonds in a 1 cup glass measuring cup or other container. Pour spring water over the almonds until fully submerged with about 1-2 inches of additional water over the top of the almonds. The almonds will slightly expand when soaking. Cover container with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.
***Very Important Step*** Make sure to drain and rinse the almonds well in a colander or strainer ***Do not use soaking liquid
Place the blanched almonds in the blender with a few pinches of salt and pepper and blend on high speed with 1/4 cup of water to start and then drizzle in more water while blending until you get the consistency of ricotta. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
Refrigerate until ready to use.
***Blender note: a narrow base blender jar works better than a wide base jar due to the small volume of ricotta made in this recipe. I have used a wide base jar, but just have to stop and scrape down the sides a few times to get the consistency I am looking for.
We tasted a similar salad at Whole Foods and fell in love with the flavors and textures of this salad which is non dairy and vegetarian and oil free. If you substitute the honey for a plant based sweetener such as maple syrup of agave this delicious grain salad would be vegan. Packed full of protein and flavors, this makes a great lunch.
This was my first attempt at cooking wheatberries. The directions on the package said to soak overnight but I also read that the overnight soak is not completely necessary so I skipped the soaking step and boiled them. If I have the time I will attempt to soak overnight next time for comparison. I used one cup of hard red wheatberries and boiled them in 3 1/2 cups water for about 50 minutes until the texture was soft but still chewy.
I drained and cooled the wheatberries and then put them in the refrigerator until I was ready to assemble the salad.
Recipe Yields approximately 6 cups:
1 cup uncooked wheatberries, cooked in 3 1/2 cups water until soft but chewy. Bring the water to boil, add wheatberries, cook on low/ slow rolling boil for 50 minutes or until done and then drain and cool (can be made a day ahead)
3 small seedless Persian Cucumbers cut into small dice
1/2 of a Red Bell Pepper cut into a small dice
1/8 cup to 1/4 cup finely diced Red Onion depending on how much raw red onion taste you like
1/2 cup of cooked and shelled Edamame
1/2 cup Blanched Slivered Almonds
1/2 cup Zante Currants
1/8 cup Toasted Sesame Seeds
2 Tbls. chopped fresh Parsley
2 Tbls. chopped fresh Cilantro
1/4 cup Honey (or for a vegan option use maple syrup or agave)
1/4 cup Tahini
1 1/2 Tbls. Dijon Mustard
1/8 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 clove of garlic pressed in garlic press or very finely chopped
1 Tbls. Soy Sauce
1 tsp. Curry Powder
1/2 tsp. Tumeric Powder
Prepare the dressing and whisk all of the dressing ingredients together. Taste and season with salt if desired. After the wheatberries have been cooked, drained, and cooled, toss the wheatberries with the dressing to desired consistency (the dressing may be just enough or you may have a few tablespoons left over depending on how heavily dressed you would like the salad). Add all of the the remaining ingredients such as the chopped vegetables, sesame seeds, currants, almonds, and herbs and gently stir till combined. Refrigerate and Enjoy!