I don’t know if there’s ever been a better creation from flour and water than pasta. (Okay, besides hot, crusty bread with butter on top). You can fill it with cheese, you can put meat on it, you can coat it in butter and garlic……the possibilities are endless.
As much as I would love to fill my mouth with pasta every single day of the week, it’s just not a possibility. I know, I know - moderation is key, right? Kind of like how my college Italian teacher (who was petite, cute and sun-kissed from the Amalfi coast) ate a sensible portion of pasta each day with her meal.
I tried that same tactic….with just one problem. I somehow couldn’t stop from eating the entire pot of pasta.
Fortunately, spaghetti squash soon thereafter entered my life. Fair warning: spaghetti squash is NOT pasta, so don’t expect it to magically turn into pasta. Read: it’s not going to taste exactly the same. BUT, it does do the trick for a healthier, veggie-filled way to mimick pasta, and is actually quite tasty once you accept (after many deep breaths and a glass of wine) that it is a vegetable, after all.
But, let’s face it: isn’t pasta (or spaghetti squash, in this case) really just a vehicle for your sauce? Similar to how I just use pancakes as an excuse to drink maple syrup, I like to use spaghetti squash for this same purpose. Bolognese, alfredo, parmesan-topped marina - heck, even butter, garlic and herbs is enough to make me sign up for spaghetti squash whenever I can.
Pesto has also been the object of my affections lately. Maybe I’m clinging on to the last bits of summer before my basil plants fade into fall….or maybe I just really like the amount of parmesan I’ve been putting into my pesto creations.
At any rate, I whipped up this little concoction the other night, combining my love of both pesto and spaghetti squash. I went pretty heavy on the olive oil, pine nuts and parmesan in this batch of pesto. Not surprisingly, this version was met with rave reviews.
Chicken Pesto Spaghetti Squash
For the Pesto
Handful of fresh basil
1/2 cup of pine nuts
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese (more or less, to taste)
1/2 - 3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil (more or less, to taste)
2-3 cloves of fresh garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
2 boneless chicken breasts, brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper
1 medium to large spaghetti squash
1. Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.
2. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. This is actually pretty tricky, so make sure you do it with a sharp, heavy knife.
3. Lie the spaghetti squash halves face-down on a cookie sheet, and put just a little bit of water in the bottom of the sheet/pan/whatever you use.
4. Stick your spaghetti squash in your trusty, hot oven, and let them roast for about 45 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, while your squashes roast away, it’s time to focus on your pesto. Combine all of your pesto ingredients together in a food processor (if you don’t have one of these - they’re magical), and process until creamy and smooth. Make sure to taste test your pesto while you’re processing it. This not only ensures you have bomb pesto, but it’s also the most fun (why cook if you can’t taste?).
Side note: I used some parmesan I found at the Ossining farmer’s market last weekend, from #Chaseholm Farm. OH MAN this was amazing - creamy, parmesany and perfect. I thought I had had parmesan, and then I tried this stuff.
6. Now, turn your attentions to your chickens. If it’s the summer time and you have access to a grill, throw these babies on the grill for about 20 minutes or so (flipping to ensure both sides cook through). If you aren’t a grill master, cut and cube your chickens, and sautee them on the stove top until they’re just cooked through with no pink inside. It’s tough not to overcook chicken, but practice makes perfect!
7. Now that you have your chickens, pesto and squashes ready to go, it’s time to assemble. Pull your squashes out of the oven, and let them rest and cool down for about 5-10 minutes. After scooping the seeds out of the middle of the squash, use a fork to pull out the threads of squash in each half. They should come out in long, spaghetti-like strands. Hence the name!
8. Combine your spaghetti squash “noodles,” chicken and pesto in a large pan on the stovetop over low heat. Fold everything together, and voila!
Assembly photo op….pre-spaghetti squash takeover.
9. Top with more parmesan cheese (you can never have too much), and enjoy!