Perfectly cooked spaghetti squash is tossed with a flavor-packed pesto and seasoned chicken for a healthy filling meal even squash haters will love! This Paleo spaghetti squash dinner makes great leftovers too!
I think there are two things involved in cooking the perfect squash. First, cooking it at the right temperature for the right amount of time, and removing the squash based on how it feels (it should give a bit when pushed from the top.)
Since the “push test” isn’t always completely accurate, it doesn’t hurt to test out a few strands either a couple of minutes early – since oven temps vary along with the size of your squash, it can’t hurt to test it – you can always stick it right back in the oven if it’s not ready yet.
The second thing is “draining” the squash. Since it IS indeed a vegetable, there will definitely be excess water released when it roasts.
I recommend removing all the spaghetti into a large bowl lined with paper towels, then, using another paper towel, squeezing/blotting the cooked spaghetti squash to remove excess water. A little bit of water removed will make a big difference in the texture of the final dish!
- 1 med/med-large spaghetti squash
- 3/4-1 cup my favorite Paleo/Whole30 Pesto recipe this recipe makes extra, use as much as you need to fully toss with your spaghetti squash
- 5 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts thin sliced or pounded to 1/2″ thickness
- 2 Tbsp coconut oil ghee, or other cooking fat, to sauté the chicken
- Sea salt pepper, and onion powder to season chicken
- First, roast the squash (you can do this step a day ahead of time, or during your meal prep and simply store the cooked squash in the fridge until ready to use.
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with foil or parchment.
- Cut the squash in half, lengthwise using a large sharp knife. Scoop out (I use a large spoon) the seeds and strings, then place face-down on a foil lined baking sheet.
- Roast in the 425 oven for about 20 minutes or until the squash can be pushed from the outside a bit with your finger. Do not over cook or it will be mushy! Once you remove the squash, lower the oven to 400 degrees.
- Allow the squash to cool enough to handle, and, using a fork going lengthwise down the squash, remove spaghetti strings from both sides of the squash and place in a large bowl.
- To “drain” the squash, squeeze once or twice between paper towels to absorb excess moisture, as you would with frozen spinach, for example. This step is important to get the texture of the dish right, no mushy, watery spaghetti squash!
- While the squash roasts, you can prepare your pesto using this recipe, or prepare it ahead of time and store in the fridge until ready to use.
- While the squash rests, cook the chicken. Heat a large skillet over med/med-hi heat and add your cooking fat. Sprinkle the chicken lightly with salt, pepper, and onion powder on both sides, then add to the pan and cook 2-3 minutes on each side, or until no longer pink in the center. Remove from pan to a plate, and allow to cool a bit. Once cool enough to handle, slice or chop into bite size pieces.
- In a casserole dish, gently toss the spaghetti with the chicken and pesto to fully coat, (about 1 cup)
- You’ll have enough extra pesto – don’t drown the spaghetti squash in pesto! Save it for another use.
- Put the casserole dish in the oven for about 10 minutes, or enough time to fully heat through and blend everything. Remove and serve!
- Additional delicious add-ins include cooked and crumbled bacon, and lightly roasted cherry tomatoes. Enjoy!
Homemade Basil Pesto
Nothing is easier (or tastier) than traditional homemade pesto. This is my favorite recipe for it, and I don’t take my pesto lightly. It took some time for me to perfect my pesto and bring on my ‘A’ game. But the whole process was so worth it.
It’s a classic basil pesto with ingredients like pine nuts, parmesan cheese, olive oil, basil, lemon juice — and lemon zest. Never used lemon zest in your pesto before? It’s not an ingredient you’ll find in many other basil pesto recipes. But boy, oh boy does the lemon zest really help brighten that pesto right up. A whole new depth of flavor is just waiting to be unlocked.
- 3 cups fresh basil leaves, slightly packed
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (freshly grated is best)
- 2 teaspoons (2 cloves) minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- OPTIONAL: pinch of red pepper flakes
- Add the basil leaves, parmesan cheese, minced garlic, lemon zest, pine nuts, lemon juice and, if using, red pepper flakes to a blender or food processor.
- Blend continuously until the ingredients start to breakdown.
- If you prefer a more coarse pesto, use the pulse setting.
- Stream in the olive oil and allow the ingredients to emulsify with the oil. You want to continue processing until the oil is combined with the basil and your other ingredients.
- Taste the pesto, add additional garlic or parmesan to preference.
Storing: Store the pesto in a small container (where the pesto fits all the way to the top and press to reduce air pockets. Homemade pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. You can also pour the pesto into ice cube trays and freeze. Remember to transfer the frozen pesto to a zip top bag once frozen.
Love & Sparkle,