Basil Pesto Spaghetti Squash – flavorful, low carb way to get your pasta fix. The squash is backed by a tasty pesto recipe.
Some years ago when I was working for Kraft Foods we were doing a lot of research on low carb diets. This was near the height of the low carb Atkins diet craze and we were trying to understand what type of recipes people were using. It was during this time that I discovered spaghetti squash which Atkins dieters were using as a pasta substitute. Based on all the consumer research, we determined low-carb was a long term trend vs. another fad diet. Short thereafter Kraft Foods acquired the South Beach Diet company which pre-dates the current dominant low-carb Keto Diet.
For those unfamiliar with spaghetti squash, it’s the larger, oval cousin to traditional squash. They actually look more like honeydew or cantaloupe melon in size and shape. The exterior is firm and smooth, while the interior has a highly unique flesh that separates into long, stringy pieces that look like angel hair pasta. When cooked the texture is tender and slightly crunchy in some parts. Flavor-wise it tends to be on the milder, bland side making it perfect for different sauces and pestos.
I’m not much of a dieter, but I’m always interested in introducing new and different foods into our kitchen, especially if there are health or convenience benefits to it. Spaghetti squash offers both and when paired with basil pesto you get a simple, delicious, and basically hands-free recipe using 7 ingredients (Spaghetti Squash + 6 ingredient basil pesto).
This pesto recipe veers slightly from the traditional. I replaced the super expensive pine nuts with cashews and used grated Mexican cotija cheese instead of parmesan. Cotija is sort of a cross between feta and Parmesan; it has a funky, longer-aged flavor.
Basil Pesto Spaghetti Squash Cooking Tips
- Cut in half – if you cut it lengthwise (from stem to end), you’ll have shorter spaghetti strands. If you cut it right down the middle (between the stem and the end), you’ll have longer strands.
- Place the squash cut side down on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Roast at 400°F until tender (poke with a knife to test) — about an hour, depending on how large of a squash you have.
- If it’s too tough to cut open, cook it whole instead. It will take a little longer to cook (15-20 minutes more) but will be tender and easier to cut.
- If microwave is your thing, you can go this route and be done in a matter of minutes. Just halve it, remove the seeds, microwave for about 10 minutes.
- For paleo version of the recipe, eliminate the cheese from the pesto
- Baked spaghetti squash will keep well in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 5 days. Just reheat before serving.
- Wash the basil very well to get rid of any debris and grit. Use cold water so they don’t wilt.
- Be intentional about the amount of garlic you use. Garlic goes a long way in pesto
- Choose a good olive oil. Doesn’t have to be expensive, but just make sure it meets your taste
Basil Pesto Spaghetti Squash
If you make this simple and flavorful Basil Pesto Spaghetti Squash, please come back and leave me a comment below with your feedback. Definitely take a photo of the dish and be sure to tag #foodfidelity so that I can see them. You can also keep up with my food exploits as well as original recipes! You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. If you like any of the music you find on the site, visit me at Spotify to find curated monthly playlists.
For another squash dish try this whole smoked butternut squash.
Dope beats, fresh eats, best life. Enjoy this basil pesto spaghetti squash, a low carb alternative the next time you opt for pasta!
Basil Pesto Spaghetti Squash
- 1 spaghetti squash halved and seeds removed
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and pepper
- ⅓ cup raw cashews
- 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves about 3 ounces or 2 large bunches
- ¼ cup grated cotija cheese or substitute with Parmesan
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic roughly chopped
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper for easy clean-up.
Drizzle the insides of each squash half with 1 teaspoon olive oil and rub it all over the inside, adding more oil if necessary. Sprinkle salt and pepper lightly over the interiors of the squash, then place them cut-side down on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 40 to 60 minutes (depending on squash size), until you can easily pierced through the squash with a fork.
After roasting, using a fork fluff the interiors to get angel hair pasta like strands
Toast the cashews: In a medium skillet, toast the cashews on medium heat stirring frequently, until nice and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour them into a bowl to let cool
Combine the basil, cashews, cheese, lemon juice, garlic and salt in a food processor or blender. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Continue processing until the mixture is well blended but still has some texture. Pause to scrape down the sides as necessary.
Taste, and adjust if necessary depending on desired taste profile. Salt will mellow out the basil and add more oomph to the pesto. More olive oil can be added if the consistency is too thick.
Leftover pesto can be stored in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 1 week.