Spaghetti Squash Gratin with Walnut and Bacon Recipe

Gratin de courge spaghetti, noix et lardons

It saddens me when people attemp to pass off food items as something they’re not: they’re selling those foods short, and setting eaters up for disappointment. No, meatless burgers are not at all like beef burgers, carob chips have nothing to do with chocolate chips, and I don’t know in what parallel low-carb universe spaghetti squash is seen as an acceptable substitute for actual, durum wheat spaghetti.

But those food items do have unique qualities of their own — well, except for carob, which is vile — so why not simply tout them as such?

Going back to the spaghetti squash, it deserves a lot better than to be treated as a stand-in for pasta. It is a wonderful winter squash in its own right, with a delicate flavor that’s not too sweet, and it is therefore a good choice for those who find winter squash a bit cloying.

But its most distinguishing feature — and the source of the misunderstanding — is its flesh, which easily separates into soft strands when cooked. The spaghetti comparison ends there, naturally, but those little tufts of filaments do create a delightfully fluffy mouthfeel that sets this cucurbitaceae apart from its peers.

Some recipes suggest cooking spaghetti squash in the microwave, but I no longer own one, so I just roast it in the oven — a method that is all in all preferable, as it also serves to deepen the flavor of the squash and evaporate some of its moisture, preventing it from getting soggy. All you need to do then is run a fork across the flesh, and the strands will appear before your very eyes, like magic.

In late afternoon on Sunday, as I was pondering what to do with my gourd, I got many great suggestions through a Twitter brainstorm: Kim likes to cook the strands like potato pancakes, with green onions, ginger and soy sauce; Anna eats her spaghetti squash with tomato soup; Yasmin dresses hers with pesto and chili oil; Michelle pointed me to this Gourmet recipe; Ariane suggested brown butter and sage; Lucy likes to layer the squash lasagna-like, alternating with spinach and ricotta and a Moroccan-inspired tomato-lentil sauce.

But, as is usually the case in my kitchen, I ended up devising a recipe inspired by what I had on hand: the thickish slice of smoked bacon that needed using, the bowl of walnuts from our neighbor’s sister’s garden, and the butt end of a mozzarella log I’d bought for a pizza aux cèpes made with ceps I hunted and captured in the forest last Thursday (see below).

This lineup of ingredients spelled gratin quite clearly: I roasted the spaghetti squash, arranged half of the flesh in a baking dish, sprinkled it with browned strips of the bacon and crumbled walnuts, layered the rest of the squash on top, covered with thinly sliced mozzarella, and topped with breadcrumbs to foster crunch. The whole thing went back under the oven grill for a few minutes, and then dinner was ready.

We had it as our main course, which left room for slivers of salted butter caramel tatin left over from the previous day’s dinner party, but it would also be lovely as a side and, come to think of it, a most suitable one if you’re cooking for Thanksgiving this week.

Picking mushrooms in the forest

Spaghetti Squash Gratin with Walnut and Bacon Recipe

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Serves 4 to 6.

Spaghetti Squash Gratin with Walnut and Bacon Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 spaghetti squash, about 2 kilos (about 4 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 thick slice of smoked bacon, about 30 grams (1 ounce) (in France, ask for poitrine fumée)
  • 12 walnut halves, roughly crumbled
  • 60 grams (2 ounces) "dry" mozzarella (i.e. not sold in whey, i.e. the kind you would use for pizza or lasagna), sliced thinly
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs (unseasoned; I make mine by just grinding stale leftover baguette; use gluten-free breadcrumbs as required)
  • olive oil
  • ground chili pepper (optional; I use piment d'Espelette)
  • salt, pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F) and lightly grease a baking sheet.
  2. Using caution and a sharp chef's knife, cut off a slice on both ends of the spaghetti squash, to remove the stem and the bottom. Set it upright on the cutting board, and slice it vertically in two equal halves. Scrape, scoop out, and discard the seeds and stringy flesh. Rub the insides of each half with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, and ground chili pepper.
  3. Place both halves on the prepared baking sheet, cut side up, and place in the oven to roast for 40 minutes, until lightly browned and fragrant. A knife should meet minimal resistance when you try to pierce the flesh, but the squash should not feel completely soft, or it may be overcooked and therefore bland. Set the squash halves aside to cool for a few minutes, until you can bear to handle it. Turn off the oven.
  4. While the squash is roasting, slice the bacon into thin strips (lardons), about 5 mm wide (1/5 inch). Place them in a small skillet and cook over medium heat until they've released most of their fat and they're nicely browned. Scoop them out of the skillet and set them on a plate lined with a (single) paper towel.
  5. Lightly grease a medium baking dish, about 2 liters (2 quarts) in capacity.
  6. When the squash is just cool enough to handle, run a fork across the flesh to separate it into strands. Scoop out and arrange the flesh from one half of the squash to form a layer at the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle evenly with the bacon strips and walnuts. Arrange the remaining squash flesh in second layer, season with salt and pepper, and top with the thinly sliced mozzarella to just about cover the surface. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.
  7. (You can prepare the gratin ahead up to this point. Let cool completely, cover, and refrigerate until ready to reheat and serve.)
  8. Switch the oven on again to 190°C (375°F); no need to preheat it again, as it should still be quite warm. Return the dish to the oven for 5 minutes, until the squash is heated through again (if you've refrigerated the gratin, you'll need to preheat the oven and it will take a little longer to reheat -- say, 15 minutes) then switch to grill mode for a few minutes, until the cheese topping is melted and browned. Serve immediately.
http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/vegetables-grains/spaghetti-squash-gratin-with-walnut-and-bacon-recipe/

  • http://www.dailyunadventuresincooking.com Katerina

    I agree, why not enjoy spaghetti squash in it’s own right? A little while back I made a gratin with sour cream, Romano cheese and lots of chives. Delicious!

  • http://www.howsweeteats.com Jessica @ How Sweet It Is

    I love bacon, and have a spaghetti squash on my counter! It’s a perfect holiday dish!

  • http://arugulove.wordpress.com arugulove

    This looks delicious. I only cooked spagetti squash once and couldn’t really figure out what to do with it, so I am sure I didn’t use it to its full potential.

    I’m really excited about this. I like that it doesn’t use cream and butter either, like so many gratins.

  • http://www.healthyfoodforliving.com Lauren

    I read this post a day too late! I prepared spaghetti squash for the first time last night, with disappointing results. I think I roasted the squash a bit too long, and did not add enough flavor to the end product. I will have to give it another try with some of the delicious ideas above!

  • http://www.georgiapellegrini.com Georgia

    Spaghetti Squash is my favorite… especially with rosemary!

  • Cynthia A

    Thank you for this recipe. I’ve made spaghetti squash several times before, but have been disappointed with it being very watery because I steamed it. I will definitely try roasting it next time, I’m sure that it will be quite a bit nicer ;) And really, what isn’t improved with bacon and cheese…?

  • cc

    gratin will be our next try with the spaghetti squash. the last one was a spaghetti squash curry with onions carrots and frozen peas (again what we had on hand). it was yum.

  • Barbara

    You don’t need to convince me! I love spaghetti squash. Am going to do a post on it in a couple weeks.
    Love it in gratin form with bacon. Yum.

  • http://lesauce.typepad.com/ yasmin

    how exciting–thank you for the mention!

    it’s nice to see how you ended up using the squash–great idea to use it in a gratin. it sounds delicious and very satisfying.

  • amy in nyc

    i had exactly this experience with spaghetti squash (trying to use it as a substitute for real pasta and being grossly disappointed). as much as i love squash, i just crossed it off my list of possible sides.

    im definitely going to try this–it sounds just wonderful! i totally agree with Georgia–bacon and cheese make everything good! altho i’m thinking maybe a different cheese, like gruyere or gorgonzola?

  • http://pieceofcakeblog.blogspot.com Shauna from Piece of Cake

    YES! YES! Yes.

    So I’ve obsessively made spaghetti squash gratin three times in two weeks, and mine didn’t even have bacon in it (just onion, garlic, parm, thyme and cream). Can’t imagine what kind of insane level of delicious might result from adding bacon and walnuts!

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Hsin

    I now know how to enjoy spaghetti squash.
    When I was a teenager I tried to eat it in place of spaghetti and hated it.
    Then I recently got a couple as a gift from a gardener who had surplus squashes. I roasted the halves in the oven, then scraped the flesh out of the shells, put the flesh into a baking dish that I had coated with butter and rubbed with garlic, and mixed in some grated Parmesan. Finally topped with some more parmesan and flaky sea salt and baked just enough to melt the cheese.
    Oh, it was good. Even my picky kids loved it.
    I’m glad you put this recipe out to help encourage people to stop using this as noodles. There’s no sense in turning a tasty food into an unappetizing dish.

  • http://www.thegardenerseden.com Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

    Oh yes, yes, of course! I agree. I have to laugh, because the first thing I thought of was those terrible station wagons with the fake wood trim. Why make a car look like it has wood on it? What? But back to the spaghetti squash. It is beautiful too, no? It doesn’t really look like spaghetti at all, does it? To me it looks like blades of honey colored fountain grass on a wet autumn day. Wilted noodles? No – not at all.
    Clotilde I love your blog ;) Michaela

  • http://www.gardentoganache.blogspot.com Elana

    I totally agree Clotilde…about the spaghetti squash AND the carob-ick. Thank you for this great recipe. Strangely enough I was craving spaghetti squash last night…we didn’t have any on hand so we had slices of orange squash and nuts…with spaghetti. If we’d only had some lardons…and way more cheese! :)

  • http://www.chiccyclist.com Charlotte

    Hate carob, love spaghetti squash.

    I thought I was pretty clever this week, adding layers to my ordinary lasagne recipe. It does serve to lighten up the dish without changing the smooshy lasagne goodness, and tastes pretty good with lots of fresh oregano and pepper.

    Gotta do a gratin next.

  • http://teajewel.wordpress.com candice

    I completely agree with you about food “substitutions.” Like, shirataki noodles as a “low calorie” substitute for real pasta? Ummmm… no. And I agree with your philosophy about just taking nature’s bounty and treating it as an ingredient all its own, not trying to sub it in for something else! This recipe looks delicious, and should be a good start for my entry into spaghetti squash eating. :) Walnut and bacon–mmm!

  • http://www.wearenotmartha.com Sues

    Mmmm I love spaghetti squash enough already… But with bacon? Even better!!!

  • http://www.TheHungerStruck.com Natalie

    I couldn’t agree more, spaghetti squash as a pasta replacement doesn’t sound right to me. I generally roast spaghetti squash as you did, sometimes adding whatever fresh herb I happen to have on hand along with a little butter, salt and pepper… and eat it as is.
    This dish looks lovely though!

  • http://www.unplannedcooking.com Unplanned Cooking

    What a beautiful post. It gives me a new appreciation for spaghetti squash. Well put.

  • Dawn in CA

    Your writing is wonderful. It is hard to believe English is your second language. Since I just LOVE learning new words, I was thrilled to see “cucurbitaceae” in this post. Who knew this was missing from my vocabulary? The fact that it’s fun to say is just a bonus.

    Oh, and the gratin looks good, too. ;)

  • http://fayefood.com faye delicious

    I have just come back from teaching in France and I have fallen in love with it hook line and sinker. I love the idea of the smoked bacon with the squash. I used it in savoy cabbage with shallot, parsley, a little white wine and butter, and it was fantastic. I braised sausages with red wine, bay leaf, garlic clove and a thyme sprig added to the water to set on top, with slow roasted onions served alongside and a pumpkin soup to start with a garlic cream reduction. By the time the whole thing was on the table I had eaten more of the lardon in two hours than I have eaten my entire life. And it was worth every bite. I don’t know what I have I been doing all this time without them.

  • http://alithinks.com Alison

    I was going to make spaghetti squash “pancakes” tomorrow, but no more. The best thing is we have everything we need on hand, except the mozzarella. We have a bunch of other good melty cheeses, though.

  • http://lifeisfare.wordpress.com/ Marcia Davis

    Quelle bonne idee! I’ve been looking for inspiration to make spaghetti squash besides as a substitute for spaghetti.

    Merci beaucoup!

  • http://www.heroyalmajesty.ca Harriet

    I roasted spaghetti squash a few nights ago, filling its belly (where the seeds used to be) with falafel powder-mixture tossed with firm tofu and caramelized onions. It was delicious!

    I’m surprised that nobody has asked you yet: WHERE do you go mushroom picking in France? Did you take that picture with the wicker basket in the Ile-de-France? I live in the 9th arrondissement and my friend from Sweden always tells me of how she frolics in the Swedish forests picking girolles. I would love to frolic! Please help!

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    All – Thanks for adding your fabulous spaghetti squash ideas to the list!

    Harriet – The picture was taken in the Rambouillet forest, to the west of Paris. Happy frolicking! (A word of warning, though: if you’re not a mushroom expert yourself, be sure to be accompanied by one, as there are plenty of toxic varieties out there.)

  • http://hojtnd.blogspot.com Marie

    Oh yes – I so agree about substitutions. No. Just love them for what they are.

    However, I must seriously take issue with your hatred of carob. Not as a faux chocolate, but on its own merits it can be wonderful. I especially like it as a farina dessert I had once with hare krishnas.

    Thanks for the post – I must get me some spaghetti squash from the farmers market this week! I am now inspired!

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Marie – I was wondering when someone would rise in defense the carob! :) I was half-joking: I’ve never tasted anything carob-flavored that I liked — it has a faint licorice aftertaste and licorice is one of the few flavors I *really* can’t warm up to — but I’m sure it has some sort of merit. It’s not easy to come by in France (though I admit I haven’t gone out of my way to find it), so I haven’t had much opportunity to play with it.

  • Marcia

    I had spaghetti squash as a side at Bonefish Restaurant for my birthday a few months ago. It was prepared with thyme honey. Would love to recreate that at home.

    Alas, allergy to wheat and tomatoes means you have listed a few ways I could eat it.

  • http://thelacquerspoon.blogspot.com the lacquer spoon

    Hi from Tokyo! Gratin is a fav dish for Japanese too, but the combo between a spaghetti squash and walnuts sounds new. I’ll have it soon :)

  • http://www.katesinapickle.com Kate Clause

    What a lovely way to enjoy spaghetti squash. I’ve been using a similar method for butternut squash (I’ve got a little recipe for it here.) but I can’t wait to try your idea. Mozzarella and bacon = mmm.

  • http://www.whatareyoufeedingyourkidsthesedays.com Gaelle@whatareyoufeedingyourkidsthesedays.com

    I agree with you about spaghetti squash. The only things it shares with the pasta is the name (unfortunately maybe)? That said, this name is also what makes it more fun to eat for my children. We just made a gratin (with Ricotta, mushroom and peas)… and I think that I’ll make it “au gratin” more often. Thanks for the recipe.

  • http://www.theteachercooks.com The Teacher Cooks

    This sounds delicious with the bacon.

  • http://www.enotria.no Enotria

    And there I have tomorrows dinner planned!

    Great blog!

    Best
    e.

  • Susan in Amherst, NH

    I make this dish, however alternately with yogurt cheese and also with what is called farmer’s cheese in the US. I prefer it with farmer’s cheese, a mild but milky-sweet cheese that doesn’t draw attention away from the squash. I’m a vegetarian, and don’t use the bacon. I make a crumb “paste” of olive oil and wheat germ and ground walnuts and bake that until it becomes golden. Then I just sprinkle it over the casserole. I love the simplicity and the “seasonality” of this dish.

  • http://www.randomreading.wordpress.com Marianne

    I’m never made spaghetti squash before, but tried this on Thanksgiving as an alternative to butternut squash, which isn’t my favorite. It was great! Thanks for the recipe.

  • http://www.demetermade.com Jessica @ Demeter Made

    This sounds delicious! I totally agree with you on just letting wonderful ingredients be themselves. I would add cauliflower as a substitute for mashed potatoes. Really? I don’t think, so.

  • http://onepot.wordpress.com Onepot @ onepot.wordpress.com

    I am a huge fan of spaghetti squash; in fact, one has just been stuffed with a curried lentil-&-spinach mix and is waiting to be eaten. I’ve also been experimenting with many gratin variations (turns out blue cheese and buttermilk make for a great combo!).

  • http://authorlyncash.blogspot.com/ Sunny Lyn

    you just made my day with this one. thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.lapetitechef.net la petite chef

    Looks and sounds delicious!! I love this time of the year when we can play around with so many squash recipes.
    Thanks!

  • Teri Angcos

    Hi,
    Just wanted to thank you for this very easy and delicious recipe! I made it last night and my husband loved it.
    I usually have a standard spaghetti squash recipe that I make. It so nice to get out of the ol’ routine.
    I love your website and have enjoyed your monthly desktop calendar! It is always a bright spot when I get my desktop calendar at the beginning of the month. My husband enjoys the photos too!

  • Stefanie

    I made this last night – amazing! My veggie-averse husband scoffed the whole thing. We both liked that it was drier than the usual gratin, but had lots of yummy crunch and gooey cheese to keep things interesting. This is a keeper – thank you!

  • http://www.foodmuses.com Angie Food Muse

    I’ve been looking for a new spaghetti squash recipe and this looks so appetizing! Looking forward to trying it.

  • http://www.acookonthefunnyside.com Crystal

    Thanks for this recipe – a friend has a bath tub full of these so we are always looking for recipes. Will give it a try and let you know how it worked out!

  • http://www.eatingabudhabi.com Mark

    Hi there. I found this recipe on Boxing Day (part of a new year’s resolution to try new things in the kitchen in 2010). I cooked this last night and it was delicious. The family loved it and so I just wanted to say thanks!!!

  • http://immaeatchu.wordpress.com susan

    hi clotilde,
    i’ve never had spaghetti squash before. i love the gratin idea and the addition of walnuts to it. sounds very delicious.

  • Leigh

    Thank you so much for posting this! I had a spaghetti squash, and no idea what to do with it, and this was not only easy and filling, it was delicious! I’m planning on making it again this weekend.

  • chester

    Hi! Oh how interesting, you roast it open! I pricked it and roasted it whole – with good results – but next I will try the open roast because it probably does intensify the flavor. I love all the inspirations – I thought juliennes of carrots (and other fall veggies) added with Thai peanut sauce would be nice, like a warm slaw – or even with some brown rice noodles included (I have a wonderful peanut sauce recipe from “A Spoonful of Ginger”(Simonds) And Deborah Madison (“Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone”) has recipe simply grating gruyère atop (also using olive oil and parsley) – But what I really wanted to tell you is – I discovered this last night – I have two pasta forks, one smaller and plastic and one big and stainless steel – the smaller one is brilliant for getting all the strands out, after you remove the goop and seeds out of the middle.

  • Jennifer

    Thank you for the idea. I really enjoy spaghetti squash, which I usually serve very simply, and will definitely try this recipe, maybe with a a few fresh herbs that I still have growing. Posted the link for my friends on facebook and emailed to some others, as it is really a lovely and quite interesting and healthy way to serve that vegetable. I enjoy your blog newsletter/blog very much, and it a nice thing to share. I will watch for other squash and root vegetable recipes for the fall. Thank you again!

  • wendy

    I would love the recipe for the “lasagna-like” dish with spinach and ricotta. That sounds delish!

  • http://ahoarseradish.blogspot.com BPDubs

    Thank goodness I’m not the only one who scoffs at the notion of spaghetti squash as a semolina spaghetti substitute! After developing a love of spaghetti squash – microwaved w/ just a skosh of butter and salt on top – I attempted using it like semolina spaghetti…I do not recommend ruining one’s squash as I did!

    I love all the ingredients in this recipe and can’t wait to try it! Thank you!

  • http://www.theteachercooks.com The Teacher Cooks

    I just loved your recipe. I made it and posted it on my blog with a link to your beautiful site. It was my first time trying spaghetti squash. Thanks for the recipe.

  • Rachel

    Oh my goodness. My husband raved about this dish, so thank you for that! The best part about this, in my opinion, is that when I heard he would be later than usual getting home from work, I just put this in at about 200 F. to slow the cooking a bit, then turned it up after about an hour to 350 F. When he called me to say he was nearly home, I broiled it (525 F.) and by the time he walked in, I had dinner on the table. I love recipes that can be slowed down if needed, and this one got so tender! It tasted like mac and cheese to me. This was also my first time trying spaghetti squash, and it will not be my last! Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Happy to hear it, Rachel, thank you!

  • Cheryl

    Just wanted to share that this is one of my favorite recipes and it has become my standard go to recipe when I get spaghetti squash in my “farm box”. I have even gotten my kids to eat it and they avoid vegetables at all costs.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

      So pleased to hear that, Cheryl!

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