14 March 2013

Cheesy Veggie "Pasta" Bake

I'm going to be straight with you: this is a casserole.

However, the term "casserole" has an archaic, dated, I-refuse-to-turn-into-my-mother feel to it, so Foodies have started calling them "bakes." 

Please note: they're the same thing.

I'm hoping that in a few years, casseroles will make like the Crockpot and become "retro" so we can all be straightforward again.

Anyway, while wasting time researching recipes on Pinterest, I came across this gluten-free Cheesy Veggie "Pasta" Bake by Jenny Sugar and knew it was destiny.

Can you tell I use my stoneware dish a TON?!

Casserole-Bakes have gotten a bad rep because they're usually full of starchy pasta swimming in a sea of sodium rich, preservative laden condensed soup. Another reason why I heart this delightful dish made from simple ingredients and substitutes spaghetti squash for spaghetti.

Take heed, it's work chopping/dicing/shredding everything, but the result is worth the time. If you have a hand chopper like this one I use from Pampered Chef or are a whiz with a food processor-- I own one but I'm afraid of it-- the Cheesy Veggie Bake is a good time to utilize such tools.

From the fridge-- it tastes even better leftover!

In typical "Chef Jamie Style," I wrote "tomato" on my shopping list, even said the word "tomato" out loud in the produce section of the grocery store, yet somehow never actually bought a tomato.

Not to worry, I just added a can of petite diced tomatoes and halved the tomato sauce to balance out the liquid. In addition, I had a third of a large mozzarella block leftover from another recipe, so I diced that sucker up and mixed the small chunks in with the veggies, only using half the bag of shredded mozzarella.

The lack of spices in the ingredients list made me nervous, so I sprinkled a bunch of oregano and basil over the veggies.

Best.Idea.Ever.  24 hours later my apartment still smelled like an Italian restaurant.  

Speaking of veggies, I doubled the zucchini and chopped the carrots because I absolutely can't stand shredding them. It all worked out fine. Short on time, I totally tried cooking the spaghetti squash in the microwave even though I scoffed at Jenny Sugar's claim that it would actually cook in 8-12 minutes. It really did cook! Seriously, I will be making way more spaghetti squash now that I know I can just microwave that sucker.

It's incredible and a great way to get kids to eat their veggies. It makes a great meal or side dish; next time I'm throwing in a pound of ground turkey/beef/pork (whatever's on sale) and an onion to really make this a main dish.

All in all-- you should make this. Normally the word "should" is considered bossy, but I'm bossing you around and commanding you to try this.

*Please note, the recipe below reflects my alterations, but you can find the original via the link at the top of the blog post.

Gluten-Free Cheesy Veggie "Pasta" Bake


1 whole spaghetti squash
2 tbsp olive oil
2 zucchini, diced
1 carrot, chopped 
1 red pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano (to taste)
1 1/2 tsp dried basil (to taste)
12oz can petite diced tomatoes, drained 
8oz can tomato sauce
1/4 to 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
12oz bag shredded mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Pierce spaghetti squash all over with a sharp knife, place in a microwave safe dish, and cook for 8-12 minutes until soft. If you don't have a microwave, you can bake the pierced squash for 45-60 minutes at 375 degrees. 

When cooked, slice squash in half length-wise, scoop out seeds, and use a fork to flake off the flesh from the peel so it resembles spaghetti. It should come off easily. Place flesh in ungreased 9x13 baking dish.

While the squash cooks, heat olive oil, carrots, zucchini, garlic, and red pepper in a skillet over medium heat. Cook until soft, about 10 minutes, then add vegetables to the squash. Toss in the tomatoes, sauce, spices, and half the cheese and mix well. Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese over the top.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Let stand for 5 once finished baking. Enjoy!

Substitutions and Add-ons

To make this a heartier main dish, add a pound of ground meat of your choice and toss in a 1 medium yellow onion for flavor. If you decide to do this, here are the instructions: 
  • Brown the meat, onion, and garlic together in a large skillet. Drain fat. Add the tomato sauce and spices to the meat mixture and simmer for 3 minutes. Place in 9x13 dish. Wipe the skillet clean and reuse for the rest of the veggies.
If you want added protein but don't want to use meat, add 2 cups of cooked quinoa.

For a creamier, cheesier casserole, mix in 1/2 to 1 cup ricotta cheese instead of the mozzarella. I'd increase the spices too if you do this.

Substitute yellow or Mexican squash for the zucchini.

Substitute 1 tomato, diced for the can of diced tomatoes. If you do this, you'll need 16oz of tomato sauce.

To make this even easier, skip the onion, garlic, tomato sauce, and spices and substitute with 16oz of your favorite marinara sauce.

You can use any color pepper you want.

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  1. This looks incredibly delicious! It's been forever since I've had a pasta bake...and never a veggie one, which I love the sound of that even better! Bookmarking and trying it out :-)

    1. Yay! I'm waiting to eat up all the groceries in the house so I can go back to the store and buy the ingredients to make this again. Let me know how you like it!