Spaghetti squash was actually not on my grocery list this past week. I only purchase it in season and always classify it as a fall/winter food. But there in Whole Foods was a display of local Lancaster, PA organic squash. I couldn’t resist and am happy I didn’t! I have made a variety of different pesto in the past with avocado, cashews, walnuts and of course pine nuts, but had never combined the creamy avocado fruit with the crunchy texture of the nuts. Definitely a winning combination!
Spaghetti Squash with Peas and Avocado Walnut Pesto (GF, V, DF)
Ingredients (see below for beneficial properties of these ingredients):
1 Medium Spaghetti Squash
1 Medium-Large avocado
1/3 Cup Walnuts (chopped or in pieces)
5-6 cloves garlic (we love garlic, you might want to halve this!)
1/2 Cup packed basil (about 1 ounce on the food scale)
1.5 cups green peas, cooked from frozen (I used Whole Foods Organic-not pictured)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
-Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F
-Take your spaghetti squash and carefully cut in half lengthwise. The first cut may seem difficult but once the knife is in its a lot easier to cut the rest of the squash.
-Dig out the seeds & pulp (pictured w/out seeds on left below)
-Save the seeds for the roasted seed recipe that I posted in November with my Italian Style Spaghetti Squash.
-While the squash is cooking, you can make your pesto and cook your peas
-Get out your food processor, bullet blender, or other blending tool
-Add all ingredients except for the peas and pulse until most of the mixture is smooth but you can still see tiny pieces of walnuts for texture
-Cook the frozen peas in a pot according to package instructions (I just cook over low-medium for about 5-7 minutes)
-When the squash is done you should easily be able to stick a fork in through the skin
-Remove it from the oven & carefully flip so the flesh side is up
-With a fork, you’ll basically want to “rake” from one side to the other to remove the “spaghetti”
-We used all of the pesto mixture and peas with about 2/3 of our squash to yield 4 servings. This will vary since your squash probably won’t be the exact same size. The leftovers can be used on a salad, in an omelet, or you can top it with any sauce.
-You can either stir your pesto mixture & peas right in with the squash, or keep separate for each dish that you plate and add the mixture on top.
-We also chopped up an heirloom tomato to add a little color and sweetness to balance out the delicious but strong garlic and basil.
Real Ingredients with Real Benefits:
Spaghetti Squash isn’t going to provide you with tons of one specific nutrient but it will contribute a balanced amount of most vitamins and minerals to your diet especially Vitamins C & B6. What shines for spaghetti squash is the fiber & healthy carbohydrate content as well as the carotenoid antioxidants.
Avocados contain mostly the healthy mono-unsaturated fat that your body needs for heart health, brain function, joint protection and immune function. Avocados are also a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamins E, C, and K, as well as the B-vitamins folate and B6. Another compound this fruit gives us is beta-sitosterol. Just like we get cholesterol from animals, we can get plant sterols from certain plants. Sterols like beta-sitosterol help block cholesterol absorption in the small intestine, enhancing heart health. The phytochemicals that avocados are highest in are the carotenoids lutein + zeaxanthin which are associated with eye health, immune and antioxidant function.
Walnuts have been pinned as the most heart healthy nut by many researchers due to their high omega-3 content (discussed here at walnuts.org) and their vitamin E and antioxidant phytochemical content. Omega-3′s support heart health by helping to regulate inflammation, Vitamin E is heart protective by protecting cells and fatty substances in the body, and the phenols present are thought to support a healthy metabolism and healthy blood vessels.
Did you know that peas are a good source of plant protein? Per 2/3 Cup serving you get 5 grams! As a reference, an egg contains 7 grams. Peas are also an excellent source of Vitamins K, C, A, B1, and folate. They contain the phytochemical coumestrol which has been found in research to reduce stomach cancer risk as well as other phytochemicals with anti-inflammatory properties.
Basil also packs a lot of vitamin K as well as some iron, calcium, and Vitamin A. The phytochemicals in basil have been found to be anti-inflammatory, heart healthy, and anti-bacterial.
Garlic provides the phytochemicals allicin and sulfides which are linked to improved immunity and respiratory health.
Tomatoes pack in lots of Vitamins A, C, and the important fluid balance mineral Potassium. They are well known in terms of phytochemical content for their lycopene which is known for reducing risk of prostate cancer. This was one of the first phytochemicals that really made a name for itself. It is often forgotten that tomatoes also provide other carotenoids and flavonoids such as quercitin.
I am not at all ready for summer to be over but have to admit I’m getting excited for fall foods!