Ever since I posted this Spaghetti Squash and Meatball Frittata, I’ve been brainstorming more ways to transform popular pasta dishes into something healthy and creative using spaghetti squash.
Cajun chicken pasta immediately came to mind. It’s a dish I rarely make and never order at restaurants. I mean, it tastes amazing, but if I were to order it, I would most likely eat the whole plate and then feel swollen and stuffed afterwards. I just hate that feeling.
But! With our handy pasta swap, spaghetti squash, I’m ready to make a healthier version of Cajun chicken pasta. To really bulk up the nutrition and serving size of the dish, I’ve added plenty of colorful bell peppers. Plus, I’ve lightened up the traditional spicy alfredo-like sauce by using a dab of reduced-fat cream cheese in place of heavy cream.
How to make it
Aside from roasting the squash, everything cooks up in one pan. Here’s a breakdown of how to make this Cajun Chicken Spaghetti Squash Bake:
- The squash. Use your preferred method of cooking squash until just tender. I usually roast mine (directions in the recipe). Once cool, scrape out the strands.
- The chicken. Season the chicken well and brown it in a saute pan.
- The veggies and sauce. Add chopped veggies to the pan and sauté until tender. Stir in the cream cheese until melted.
- Bake. Add the squash, stir, and pop the whole pan in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes.
- Garnish. Sprinkle fresh parsley and grated Parmesan cheese over the top.
I used a cast iron skillet for this recipe, but feel free to use any oven-safe pan. Or, transfer the mixture to a casserole dish before baking it in the oven.
Also, this dish has my husband’s seal of approval:
How do you like our family jargon? “Cooling agent” is my husband’s term for sour cream. Feel free to add a dollop on top for some extra tang and creaminess OR to tone down the heat from the Cajun seasoning. Despite the fact that we are out of “cooling agent” at the moment, my husband still packed this for lunch 3 times this week! Looks like I’ve found a new recipe to add to our dinner rotation!
- 2 medium spaghetti squashes (or 1 large)
- 1½ tablespoons olive oil, divided
- ¾ teaspoon salt, divided
- ¼ teaspoon pepper, divided
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, chopped into small cubes
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
- ½ onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 3 roma tomatoes, diced
- 2 ounces reduced fat cream cheese
- ¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
- 3 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese
- Roast the squash: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut each spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Rub ½ tablespoon of olive oil on each half and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of salt and ⅛ teaspoon pepper. Place in the oven, flesh side up, and roast for 30 minutes. Let the squash cool.
- Cook the chicken: While the squash is roasting, toss the chicken breast cubes in 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning and ¼ teaspoon salt (if Cajun seasoning is salt-free) until evenly coated. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a very large sauté pan or skillet (preferably oven safe) over medium-high heat. Once heated, add in the chicken and sauté for 7-8 minutes, flipping the pieces once to brown on all sides. It’s best to brown the chicken in 2 batches so you don’t crowd the pan. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
- Cook the veggies: To the same pan, add the onion and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt. Sauté the onions for about 2 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Add the bell peppers, 1 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning, and sauté for 2-3 minutes until softened. Then, add in the diced tomatoes and cream cheese. Stir gently until combined. Take the mixture off the heat and set aside.
- Add in spaghetti squash: When the squash is cool enough to handle, use a fork to scrape the spaghetti strands out of each half. Add the spaghetti squash and the chicken to the sauté pan and toss to combine. If using an oven safe pan, place the skillet in the oven. Or, transfer the mixture to a casserole dish.
- Bake and serve: Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until the edges are slightly crispy. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese before serving.