Friday, June 7, 2013

Paleo Basil Cashew Pesto Coated Spaghetti Squash with Chicken and Zucchini

When I posted a picture of this dish (on both The Paleo Network's and my own personal Facebook page), I didn't anticipate the response that I received. A number of people took interest in this dish - both Paleo and non-Paleo eaters alike. I knew I needed to get this recipe written before I forgot any of the details.

I separated the ingredients and directions into different sections based on the parts of the dish: Spaghetti Squash, Pesto, Chicken, Zucchini and putting it all together. It may sound like a lot of steps, but some of it can be done in advance or things can be done concurrently. For example, I roasted and prepared my spaghetti squash a couple days prior and had the squash strands in a large Ziploc bag in the refrigerator. I could have prepared the pesto in advance and had that in a Tupperware, which would definitely make for a quick and easy weeknight dinner. It truly is a simple meal packed with so much flavor. It's so good, I ate some of the leftovers for breakfast! I made this with chicken, but as I was eating it, I thought how delicious shrimp would be. If you don't have cashews on hand for the pesto, you could probably use pine nuts or macadamia nuts. 

I'll be adding this to my regular rotation. Grains and dairy were not missed in this meal. Everything seemed to work together so well. The pesto turned into a decadent sauce when tossed with the spaghetti squash. 

Basil-Cashew Pesto Spaghetti Squash with Zucchini and Chicken
Serves: 5-6


  • 1 large spaghetti squash or 2 small, roasted and pulled into strands
  • 1 cup of packed basil leaves
  • ¾ cup raw cashews
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • Juice from one lemon
  • 1 t. pink sea salt
  • ½ - ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil, depending on your preferred consistency
Chicken and Zucchini:
  • 3 – 4 T. Fat of choice
  • 1 ¼ - 1 ½ pounds chicken tenders, breast or thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 medium zucchini, diced
  • Sea salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste

To roast your spaghetti squash (can be done in advance):
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375°F.
  2. Cut in half length-wise.
  3. Place cut-side down in a large baking dish with about an inch of water (I typically use two baking dishes if I am roasting two squashes).
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the shell is soft to the touch.
  5. Flip the squash over (flesh side up) and allow them to cool until you can handle them.
  6. Using a fork, pull out all the flesh into strands. If using immediately, just put into a large bowl and set aside. If saving for later use, put into a large Ziploc bag and store in the refrigerator.

To make the pesto:
  1. Place all ingredients except olive oil into your food processor.
  2. Process for about 30 seconds, or until everything is chopped and well-incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the food processor bowl.
  3. With processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until you’ve reached your desired consistency.

To cook the chicken and zucchini:
  1. Heat 2 T. fat of choice in a large skillet or frying pan over medium to medium-high heat.
  2. Add chicken in a single layer and let it cook for 8-10 minutes on one side to allow it to get golden brown and crispy.
  3. Season with sea salt and pepper.
  4. Flip, add minced garlic and cook 3-5 more minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink.
  5. Remove from pan and reserve for later.
  6. Add remaining fat of choice to same pan. Toss the zucchini in the fat and allow to sauté for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with sea salt and pepper, to taste.

Putting it all together:
  1. If you roasted your spaghetti squash in advance (and it’s cold/cool), then heat spaghetti squash in a large skillet/pot/frying pan over medium to medium-high heat, tossing occasionally. If your spaghetti squash is still warm, just add your warm skillet/frying pan in which you cooked the chicken and zucchini.
  2. Add pesto, a few spoonfuls at a time, tossing/stirring and adding more until the spaghetti squash is coated to your liking. You may have some pesto leftover (it tastes great on eggs!).
  3. Add the chicken and zucchini to the skillet and mix it all together. Add a little more pesto at this point, if you’d like. Toss to coat the chicken and zucchini with the pesto.
  4. Serve and enjoy!

Please share this recipe with your friends and family and on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter. I appreciate your help in helping build The Paleo Network. 

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