Finding ourselves on the brink of autumn, with school and work-life back in full swing, this September I’ll be sharing a series of one-pot, super simple, and inexpensive yet healthful recipes- perfect for those on a tight or student’s budget, with a particularly small kitchen, or with a sparse amount of free time (check, check, check to all of the above!). Limited resources- financial, space, or otherwise- shouldn’t have to put a damper on your nutrition needs or access to a delicious meal- look no further.
A few days back I was asked to contemplate the (my) concept of comfort food – suggestive, I suppose of the kind of belly filling bowl that warrants the belt loop taken out a notch, perhaps while swaddled in an oversized sweatshirt or Snuggie. And though I’ve had my fair share of ‘comfort’ fare, as recent as a homemade deep dish Daiya cheese laden pizza casserole, as one does in Chicago, admittedly, I was left more uncomfortable than comforted. With my belly filled up to ears, sure, it was comforting to know my friends and husband were in the same boat, communally very full in the roll me to bed sort of way, but it seemed true comfort was found in the moments around the food, the chaos of preparation, the rustic directionless-ness, our togetherness and chitchat, instead of in the comfort food food itself.
Inspired by said deep dish pizza casserole, this Tomato Basil Spaghetti Squash Bake spotlights those same Italian flavors, that overtly casual, comforting, casserole mentality, while utilizing seasonally available, all natural ingredients. Made with roasted and pulled spaghetti squash, a simple basil infused cashew ‘cheese’, fire roasted chunky tomatoes, and Italian seasoned and protein rich sietan, this vegan spaghetti squash bake is the perfect way to gather your friends around your autumn table.
Tomato Basil Spaghetti Squash Bake [makes 6 servings]
note: although this recipe technically requires a few pots (a baking pan, a blender, a casserole dish, and a few bowls), all ingredients clocked in around $20 for six generous, nourishing, and nutritious servings (~$3.50/meal), requiring minimal kitchen time and preparation effort.
1 cup raw cashews
1 large spaghetti squash (about 3 pounds), halved and deseeded
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup nutritional yeast + extra for topping
½ cup fresh basil + extra leaves for topping
¼ cup filtered water
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
juice of ½ lemon
1 package (8 ounces) Italian seasoned seitan
1 jar (24 ounces) marinara sauce
1 can (14 ounces) diced fire roasted tomatoes, drained
In a medium bowl, cover raw cashews with warm water. Allow to sit for a minimum of 60 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450 degrees F, rack in the middle. Line baking sheet with foil.
Drizzle olive oil over spaghetti squash and place cut side down on foil-lined baking sheet. Roast until fork tender, about 30 minutes. Remove squash from oven and allow to cool. Using a fork, carefully pull the spaghetti squash flesh, creating spaghetti squash strands.
In a high speed blender or food processor fitted with an S-blade, blend now soaked cashews with ½ cup nutritional yeast, ½ cup basil, water, garlic, mustard, and lemon juice until very creamy. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together marinara sauce and fire roasted tomatoes. Set aside.
Reduce oven heat to 375 degrees F.
In a glass or ceramic casserole dish, evenly distribute about ¼ of the tomato mixture to cover the bottom. Top with 1/3 of the seitan, 1/3 of the pulled spaghetti squash, then 1/3 of the cashew ‘cheese’ mixture. Repeat, carefully layering until all ingredients have been used, being sure to end with the tomato mixture covering the top. [sauce-seitan-squash-cheese-sauce-seitan-squash-cheese-sauce-seitan-squash-cheese-sauce] Sprinkle with a bit of nutritional yeast and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until bubbling.
Increase oven heat to broil and bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until top becomes crispy. Remove from heat, sprinkle with extra basil leaves, serve and enjoy!
Nutritional Information [per serving]
340 Calories, 14.5g Fat, 38.5g Carbohydrates, 8g Fiber, 14g Sugar, 19.5g Protein