This spaghetti squash baked ziti is a healthier twist on the classic Italian dish yet still packed with that hearty, comforting and cheesy taste you love.
Pasta has and probably always will have my heart when it comes to comfort food. You know that question people love to ask about what your last meal would be? Well, I’ve never been able to really answer that but I’m pretty sure pasta would somehow be involved. Most likely pappardelle and definitely with cheese. Lots of it.
Baked ziti was never a dish my family did often. I don’t know why really but dishes like risotto and bolognese were more our go-to for hearty, Italian comfort food. That said, I can still appreciate a deliciously saucy, cheesy tray of baked ziti. I mean, who can’t, right?
*This post is sponsored by Redpack Tomatoes. All content and opinions are my own.
I’ve never been as “into” spaghetti squash as everyone else seems to be. But, most of that isn’t because I don’t like the squash, I just don’t like when people try to pass it off as pasta. 99% of the time it doesn’t even come close to convincing me.
I’m not even sure I want to say this spaghetti squash baked ziti fits into that 1% of the time, (that’s a bold statement to make) but I will say this: it’s delicious as heck as it’s own thing.
Something magical happens when you combine that saucy tomato-ness with creamy ricotta and mozzarella that whatever else is involved almost doesn’t matter.
In this case, it’s sweet Italian sausage, chard, mushrooms and spaghetti squash. It’s a recipe born out of the need to both clear out my fridge and allow me to eat it while I’m over here starting week 3 of counting macros again in preparation for 3 weeks in Mexico at the end of January and actually wanting my bathing suits to fit after a summer of delicious ice cream indulgence.
So ziti was replaced with spaghetti squash and for once, I have to say, I don’t hate the substitution. It still very much resembles everything you love in baked ziti and I promise you don’t finish your serving wishing you had the real deal. As a skeptical spaghetti squash swapper, I don’t say that lightly either.
It’s a healthier, vegetable packed version of baked ziti. It’s macro friendly but it’s still hearty, cozy, cheesy and filled with quality ingredients. Sauce can either make or break a dish like this so choose wisely when selecting your canned tomatoes.
Redpack Tomatoes are always a staple in my pantry. Whether it’s Redpack or Tuttorosso (same company, both brand labels are sold in my area), it’s the only canned tomato I keep on hand because the taste is legitimately second to none.
Last year at this time, I got the opportunity to visit their headquarters and some of the tomato farms they work with (I talked all about both in this recipe for Italian tomato pasta soup). This year, I’m happy to partner with them again to talk about their work with the Help Crush Hunger campaign this time of year.
Over 11 million families in America face hunger. Redpack Tomatoes and Feeding America have teamed up and in the month of October, Redpack is donating 1 meal to someone in need for every can of tomatoes purchased. The goal is to donate 2 million meals to Feeding America food banks!
You can visit the Help Crush Hunger site for lots more information on hunger in America and how you can help. So, grab a recipe (their pizza stromboli looks good!) while you’re there or, of course, make this spaghetti squash baked ziti, buy a can of Redpack/Redgold/Tuttorosso tomatoes and enjoy a delicious dinner while simultaneously helping an American family in need out there do the same.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 12 ounces sweet Italian turkey sausage
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 bunch swiss chard, cleaned and roughly chopped
- 12 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced
- salt and pepper
- flesh from 1 small spaghetti squash, cooked (*see note on how I cook it)
- 14 ounces Redpack crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (I used rosemary and thyme)
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 12 ounces whole milk ricotta, divided
- 5.5 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella, divided
- Preheat oven to 400°F and lightly grease a baking dish.
- Place olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned, breaking up into small pieces with a spatula as it cooks.
- Reduce heat to medium, add the shallots and garlic to the pot and stir. Cook for about 1 minute until softened and fragrant.
- Add the chard and mushrooms to the pot, season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir and let cook until the chard has wilted and mushrooms softened, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add the cooked spaghetti squash, crushed tomatoes, herbs and red pepper flakes to the pot. Stir until well combined. Bring mixture to a simmer then remove from heat.
- Combine 8 ounces of the ricotta with 4 ounces of the shredded mozzarella in a small bowl. Add to the pot and stir until thoroughly combined.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish.
- Dollop the remaining ricotta on top of the mixture then cover the top with the remaining mozzarella.
- Loosely cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes until cheese starts to turn golden brown on top. You can also finish under the broiler for 1-2 minutes for an even crispier/golden brown topping.
- Remove from oven, let cool for a few minutes before serving. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley or basil before serving.
*To cook spaghetti squash - half the squash, remove seeds, poke a few holes in the flesh of each halve with a knife. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and bake at 375°F in a baking dish for about 45 minutes or until flesh is fork tender. Let cool to the touch then scrape out the flesh with a fork discarding the skin.