Take spaghetti squash to the next level with the addition of creamed spinach and pancetta. These squash boats are wonderful as a side dish and are also satisfying enough to be the main attraction.
This post was originally published in November 2019 and has been updated with recipe refinements, tips, and new photos.
Spaghetti squash is a mild-tasting winter squash that gets its name from its fun texture. Once baked, the flesh of this squash flakes into strands resembling spaghetti.
This mild flesh is the perfect canvas for a variety of flavors... such as creamy spinach and salty pancetta.
Why you will love this
- Spaghetti squash doesn't require lots of preparation and bakes up beautifully.
- The mild squash flavor pairs well with so many flavors.
- This creamy, cheesy filling adds a rich, comfort food vibe to the light squash.
- This dish is satisfying enough to serve as a main dish but is equally delicious as a side dish with your favorite meat or fish.
- Spaghetti squash is a mild-flavored squash. When baked, the flesh flakes apart into spaghetti-like strands.
- Frozen creamed spinach - This is one of my favorite shortcut ingredients. It's indulgent yet light and is perfect for incorporating into other dishes like this.
- Shallot provides a mild onion flavor. Sweet yellow or red onion can also be used.
- Fontina cheese is mild and melts beautifully. Gruyere is another great choice. Monterey Jack or Parmesan can also be used.
- Pancetta provides a meaty and salty bite. Bacon can also be used.
- Heavy cream (not pictured) - Add as needed if the spinach mixture seems thick. Typically, 1-2 tablespoons is enough.
See the recipe card for complete instructions and ingredient amounts.
Cut the spaghetti squash
- Use a strong, sharp knife, like a chef's knife, to cut the squash in half lengthwise. Insert the point of the knife into the middle of the flesh and cut downwards towards the base of the squash.
- Rotate the squash and repeat this to cut the other half, cutting towards the stem of the squash. You will now have two halves.
Prepare the squash
- Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard them.
- Drizzle the flesh of the squash with oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Turn the squash flesh-side (cut-side) down on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes at 400 degrees until tender. The flesh should separate into spaghetti-like strands when scraped with a fork.
- Meanwhile, in a skillet, cook the pancetta until browned and crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Drain the excess fat, leaving 1-2 teaspoons.
- Add the sliced shallots to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened.
- Add creamed spinach and the cheese and stir until the cheese is melted. If the mixture seems too thick, stir in 1-2 tablespoons of heavy cream.
- Season to taste with salt, pepper, and some freshly grated nutmeg (optional).
- Spoon the spinach mixture into the squash boats and top with the pancetta. Serve.
Serving, storing, and reheating
- One squash serves two as a main dish or four as a side dish. For a vegetarian option, simply omit the pancetta.
- Serve with steak or chicken for a complete meal.
- To store, cool completely and wrap tightly. Refrigerate for up to 2-3 days.
- Leftovers reheat well in the microwave.
- To reheat in the oven, wrap the squash in foil, place it on a sheet pan, and heat it in a 350-degree oven until warmed through.
- Use freshly grated cheese for the best flavor and melting quality.
- Bake the squash on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan to prevent it from sticking. It also makes cleanup a breeze.
- Add artichoke hearts or sun-dried tomatoes to the spinach mixture for added flavor.
Overcooking is the likely reason for mushy squash. Baking the squash halves cut-side-down allows for the extra moisture to drip away and not puddle in the squash. When cooked properly, the exterior of the squash will still be firm and the flesh will flake easily into strands.
Spaghetti squash pairs well with beef, pork, chicken, or fish. This dish is light enough to enjoy during warm weather but it also has a comfort food vibe perfect for cooler days.
Since the flesh of spaghetti squash separates into strands resembling spaghetti, it is often used as a low-carb, low-calorie alternative to pasta. Its mild flavor serves as a good base for various types of pasta sauces.
More recipes you may enjoy
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Spaghetti Squash with Creamed Spinach and Pancetta
- 1 spaghetti squash
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 4 ounces pancetta (diced)
- 1 shallot (sliced)
- 10 ounces frozen creamed spinach
- ½ cup shredded Fontina cheese
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- Kosher salt (to taste)
- black pepper (to taste)
- freshly ground nutmeg (to taste, optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Cut the squash in half lengthwise. (Note 1) With a spoon, scoop out and discard the seeds. Drizzle the oil over the cut side of the squash and season with salt and pepper.
- Place the squash cut-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 30-40 minutes until tender and the squash separates into strands when scraped with a fork.
- Meanwhile, in a non-stick skillet over medium heat, cook the pancetta until browned and crisp, about 5-6 minutes. Drain the pancetta on a paper towel-lined plate. Remove the excess fat from the skillet, leaving about 2 teaspoons in the pan.
- Turn the heat to medium-low. Add the shallot and cook until softened, approx. 2-3 minutes.
- Add the creamed spinach and the cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted. If the spinach mixture seems thick, add the heavy cream to loosen. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and freshly ground nutmeg.
- Spoon the spinach mixture into the squash boats. Top with the pancetta and serve.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the squash. Insert the point of the knife into the middle of the flesh and cut downwards towards the base of the squash. Rotate the squash and repeat this to cut the other half, cutting towards the stem of the squash. You will now have two halves.
- To store, cool completely. Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- To reheat in the oven, wrap in aluminum foil and place on a sheet pan. Heat in a 350-degree oven until warmed through.
Nutritional information is an estimate and will vary depending upon the exact amounts and specific ingredients used.