This is one of my favorite vegetable dishes ever. And really, how can you go wrong with cheesy cream sauce topped with more cheese? What makes it special, though, is the jalapeno-chedder flavor that dominates the dish without having much heat. If you like the flavor of jalapenos but not the burn, this is a great way to get that taste. The squash makes a fantastic mild medium for indulging in creamy, jalapeno-pepper-and-cheese heaven.
There are two reasons that you can achieve the jalapeno flavor here without having to brave the heat. First is that you won’t actually end up with peppers in the final dish. You’ll cut them up and then place them in a pan of milk, which you will heat to scalding and then let the peppers steep. This allows the jalapeno flavor to be diffused in the milk, but when the process is over, you’ll strain out the pepper pieces and discard them. Second, the large amount of dairy in the recipe counteracts the capsaicin in the peppers. However, it is still possible to end up with a hot flavor if you use large, strong jalapenos, so choose them wisely. If keeping things really mild is important, look for peppers without white streaks (called striations) which generally suggest a more mature pepper, and when you cut them, sniff them. The more tickle you get in your throat, the hotter the pepper.
If, on the other hand, you want your spaghetti squash to pack a punch, buy the peppers with striations, and before you cut them, roll them on the counter, pressing them with the palm of your hand. This helps to release the hot pepper oils from the seeds and membranes into the flesh of the pepper.
My mom likes to bring a pan of jalapeno spaghetti squash to Thanksgiving dinner, and if it comes to it, the mashed potatoes must concede their position on my plate to make room for the squash! Unlike butternut squash or pumpkin, spaghetti squash doesn’t have much flavor on its own. This makes it less likely to deter squash haters. The squash is simply a pasta-like canvas for the cheddar cheese and jalapeno cream.
If you’re planning an Easter dinner, this would make a delicious side to smoked ham, or any other roasted meat!
adapted from My Recipes
- 1 spaghetti squash (about 3 lbs)
- 2 cups lowfat milk
- 2 to 3 jalapenos, seeds and membranes removed and roughly chopped
- 2 TBS butter
- 3 TBS flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded, divided
Preheat oven to 350* and lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish.
Wash the spaghetti squash and poke several holes in the skin with a fork. Microwave on high for 10 minutes. The squash should be tender and easily pierced with a fork. If it isn't, microwave in 1-minute intervals until tender. Let squash sit until cool enough to handle.
Meahwhile, place milk and jalapenos in a medium saucepan. Warm over medium heat until small bubbles form around the edges of the milk. Remove from heat, cover the pan and let sit for 15 minutes. Strain and discard the jalapeno pieces.
When squash is cool enough to handle, remove the seeds and discard. Then use a fork to scrape the strands out of the skin and into a large bowl. Press the squash between paper towels or a clean kitchen towel or cheesecloth to remove excess moisture.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and salt and cook it smells like cooked piecrust, about 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the jalapeno-flavored milk. Continue whisking until the mixture thickens slightly, 3-5 minutes. Pour the mixture over the squash and stir together along with 1/2 cup cheese. Transfer to baking dish and bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top and bake for another 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.
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