Browned butter kale and fontina spaghetti squash offers a rich, cheesy edge to your standard vegetarian main. Weeknight-friendly and perfect for make-ahead lunches. Can we just acknowledge for a moment that Christmas is less than a WEEK away? And then 2019 is OVER. Where the heck did the last month/year/decade go?! (The questions that keep me up at night.)
I’m also turning the big three-oh this Saturday, which is another shockwave in and of itself. I’m actually very much looking forward to my thirties, even though my eighteen-year-old self would have equated it to an instant death of youth, fun, and irresponsibility. My twenties taught me a lot. Some of the most valued lessons being that you don’t need everyone to like you, jealousy is a wasted emotion, change is GROWTH, honesty and openness is important… (so is contributing to your damn 401K). But most importantly, the years of flailing self-doubt taught me that success is all about perspective.
If you would asked my early-twenty-something self, I likely would’ve told you that by thirty I’d be married, own a home and a nice car, and have all of my student loans paid off. Why? Because society had ingrained that false picture of “success” in my head. I had subscribed to the absurd cultural pressures of what entering my third decade of life should emulate.
But guess what? I’m three days from my thirtieth lap around the sun and as single as they come; I rent a house with my brother; I still drive my 2010 Honda; and my student loans still lure over my shoulders every month like a dark, grey cloud.
Am I exactly where I want to be? Heck no. But I realize that just as I am ever evolving, so is my personal standard of “success”. And I’m damn proud of the success I’ve achieved so far: I earned two degrees; I recently turned my side-hustle/hobby into my career; I’m healthy, mentally strong, and fiercely independent; I’ve trusted myself enough to walk away from jobs that no longer suited me, love that no longer ignited me, and places that no longer honored my light.
And truthfully, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been—in my personal and professional life. I feel like my life has so much more meaning, and therefore fulfillment, now than it ever has before, which feels far more fortuitous than anything material or monetary. Plus, getting older is a PRIVILEGE, and one that I never want to take for granted.
So as I sit here about to swirl up a forkful of this rich, creamy play on pasta brimming with my favorite two ingredients (kale and cheese), all I can say is life is freaking delicious. Browned butter is one my favorite ways to add layers or rich, nutty flavor to everything from baked goods to pasta. Here, it plays off the earthy greens and nutty cheese while complementing the naturally sweet squash like a dream. A spritz of fresh lemon juice at the end gives the comforting flavors a fresh, floral lift.
Because yes, you can use squash as a vehicle for butter and cheese. After all, you’re getting a double dose of veggies here. These stuffed squash boats are filling enough for a meal, yet versatile enough to enjoy alongside your protein of choice. Top them off with toasted pine nuts, and a vat of veggies has never felt this satisfying.
- 2 small spaghetti squash (about 1½ lbs. each)
- 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1½ Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
- ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 5 cups thinly sliced lacinato kale
- ½ cup freshly grated Fontina cheese
- 4 lemon wedges
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Cut each squash in half lengthwise. Rub flesh evenly with 1 Tbsp. of the oil. Sprinkle with ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. black pepper. Place squash halves, cut sides down, on a baking sheet. Bake for 50 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes. Scoop out seeds; discard. Scrape inside of squash with a fork to remove spaghetti-like strands. Set aside.
- Toast pine nuts in a large dry skillet over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often, until golden. Transfer to a small bowl.
- Add butter to pan; cook until butter is browned, foaming, and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add remaining 3 Tbsp. oil, garlic, thyme, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring constantly, until garlic begins to brown, about 1 minute. Add kale; cook until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Add spaghetti squash strands, remaining ½ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. black pepper; toss well to coat.
- Divide squash mixture evenly into 4 squash shells. Sprinkle Fontina cheese evenly overtop. Place back on baking sheet and broil on HIGH 2 minutes, until cheese is melted. Scatter pine nuts overtop; serve with lemon wedges.