Cashew-Cauliflower Alfredo Baked Spaghetti Squash
Yields: about 6-8 servings Prep Time: 45 minutes Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
A veggie filled dish, this baked spaghetti squash is made rich with a flour-less creamy sauce base of cashews (and a bit of cauliflower). Chicken and spinach are mixed into the creamy sauce, then topped with Parmesan and baked a bit longer for everything to melt together for a family friendly, healthy dinner!
1 medium spaghetti squash
3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 1), diced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup white or yellow onion, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 1/2 cup (tightly packed) fresh spinach, chopped
3/4 cup whole raw cashews
2 cups vegetable or chicken store (one that you really love the flavor)
1 cup chopped cauliflower
1 tablespoon diced white or yellow onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups Parmesan cheese (2 cups for sauce, 1/4 cup for sprinkling)
Pinch of nutmeg
1. Cover 3/4 cup cashews in water and let soak until ready to use.
2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Carefully slice spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, coat with 1 teaspoon of olive oil inside and outside the squash. Sprinkle inside with a bit of salt, and lay face down on a baking tray. (I line the tray with parchment paper first for easier clean up.)
4. Bake spaghetti squash for 40-45 minutes.
5. While squash is baking, sauté diced chicken, 1/8 cup onion, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 cups tightly packed spinach in 2 teaspoons olive oil. Sauté until chicken is cooked through, about 5-7 minutes, and set aside.
6. In a saucepan, add 1 cup diced cauliflower, 1 tablespoon diced onion, 1 teaspoon minced garlic in 2 teaspoons of olive oil. After a few minutes, add the stock, cashews and salt. Bring to a low boil and cook for about 5-7 minutes.
7. Remove from heat and carefully place in a high-speed blender and puree until smooth (1-2 minutes).
8. Place pureed sauce back into saucepan (no heat) and fold in Parmesan cheese, chicken and spinach mixture, and a pinch of nutmeg.
9. Remove spaghetti squash from oven, and carefully (possibly with oven mitts) turn over. Using a fork, pull the spaghetti “strings” from the squash and place in saucepan with sauce.
10. Once each half of squash has been emptied of “spaghetti”, mix the sauce and squash “strings” and place equally back in each half of emptied squash. Top with a tablespoon or so of Parmesan cheese on each half.
11. Place back in the oven and bake at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes until cheese on the top lightly browns.
12. Remove from the oven and spoon out a delicious serving of twice baked cheesy squash!
Spaghetti squash is such an amazing base for so many dishes. However, there is something about combining it with cheese that really makes it so delicious. I have used spaghetti squash in a couple of other meals, and I have found that it works as a pasta substitute so well.
I don’t mind, and actually often prefer, a slight al dente quality to the spaghetti squash noodle. However, one of my kids really needs to have them softer – it’s a texture thing. So, I make sure to cook the full 45 minutes or so in the beginning to get a softer squash “noodle”.
Another nice thing about this recipe is that is gluten free. Often times creamy sauces require a bit of flour to thicken the sauce. This isn’t necessary with the cashews, as they create a naturally thick and rich sauce. I use cauliflower so the sauce isn’t too thick, as sometimes that can be just as bad as too thin of a sauce. It’s just a bonus you get more veggie in there!
Do choose a stock that you really enjoy, as it is the flavor backbone of the sauce. If you want to make this a vegetarian dish, use vegetable stock and omit the chicken in the initial spinach sauté. I like to have a bit of extra protein in there, and the seasoned chicken and spinach really add a nice flavor combining nicely with the cashew sauce.
This may seem like more of an intense recipe, but it’s really not. Just a bit of prep to get stuff in the often and pre-cooked before mixing it all together. It’s become an easy favorite for dinner, and taste great the next day for anything that is left over.