Steph’s note: Please welcome Ciarra from Popular Paleo back to the blog. Not only is she a close personal friend of mine, she’s a whiz in the kitchen AND she’s just finished writing a cookbook (releasing December 2nd so click here to pre-order) called The Frugal Paleo Cookbook: Affordable, Easy & Delicious Paleo Cooking. I know y’all are going to love it because she’s done an amazing job. (I got to test drive some of the recipes!) This Chicken Florentine dish is representative of the budget-friendly bites she’s known for. Take it away, Ciarra!
I have a not-so-secret love affair with spaghetti squash, but in my part of the country (the Pacific Northwest) it can get expensive depending on the time of year. Since I make one Paleo-friendly meal to feed my little semi-Paleo family of four each night for dinner, I’m always looking for ways to stretch a pricier ingredient. For spaghetti squash, I do that by mixing it up with chicken Italian sausage and fresh organic baby spinach for Chicken Florentine Spaghetti Squash Boats. I like to serve it all in the shell of the spaghetti squash and top it some fresh herbs and pine nuts if I have some hanging around in my pantry.
- 1 medium to large spaghetti squash
- 16 ounces (454 grams) chicken Italian sausage (organic, gluten-free)
- 1 organic white or yellow onion, diced
- 2–3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups (700 grams) organic baby spinach leaves, packed into measuring cup
- 2–3 tablespoons (30–45 mL) extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
- Optional: 1 tablespoon (7 grams) pine nuts and chopped flat-leaf parsley
- First things first, let’s get that spaghetti squash in the oven to roast while we prepare the filling. Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C). Using a large knife and steady hand, split the squash in half lengthwise. The best way to do this is usually by scoring the squash and then inserting the tip of the blade into an end. Apply strong and even pressure on the knife, using it more like a splitting wedge on a large log rather than the familiar slicing action of a blade. Once the squash is split open, use a spoon to remove the seeds and pulp (just toss that stuff). Place the halved squash cut-side down on a roasting pan, add a few tablespoons of water to the pan and roast for 35 to 40 minutes in a preheated oven.
- Meanwhile, prepare the chicken Florentine portion of the dish. Heat a large skillet to medium-high and drizzle in a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Once it comes to temp, crumble in the chicken Italian sausage, garlic and diced onion. Cook and stir until the sausage is fully cooked and the onion is translucent—this should take about 12 minutes or so. A few minutes before the meat is done, pile the baby spinach on top of the sausage so that it wilts as the rest of the items in the pan finish. Stir the spinach into the sausage mixture as it cooks down. Then set it aside until the spaghetti squash has finished roasting.
- After you pull the squash out of the oven, turn them over so they cool a little faster. Once you can handle them comfortably (or if you can manage holding them with an oven mitt), use a fork to scrape with the grain of the squash to harvest the strands. Transfer the harvested strands into the pan with the sausage mixture, season with sea salt and black pepper to taste and the pine nuts if you want to use them. Toss the squash strands with the sausage and spinach so everything gets evenly combined.
- I like to serve this plated inside the spaghetti squash shell or “boat-style.” It’s pretty and, well, if I can save myself another dish to wash, then I’m all for it. Top with some toasted pine nuts and / or fresh flat-leaf parsley and dig in!
- p.s.: If you happen to have any leftovers, this makes a great frittata for breakfast or a to-go lunch the next day!