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Pesto Shrimp Spaghetti Squash Bowls

Spaghetti squash makes the perfect alternative to pasta, right down to how well the sauce “sticks” to the squash and the squash pulls out in spaghetti strands. I’ve experimented with spaghetti squash primavera, marinara, and puttanesca so it was time to give pesto a shot. In this recipe, I use wild shrimp, but you can simply leave it out and make this a vegan version or choose any protein of your choice.  In recent years, I have drastically reduced my seafood consumption and stick closely with the EWG’s recommendations for low mercury and high omega 3’s, in this case, wild shrimp is low in mercury and high in protein (18 grams per 3 oz. serving). It’s not something I have on a weekly basis, but once every couple of months. Please keep the following in mind, when you’re buying shrimp:

  • Unless you live on the East, West, or Gulf Coast, in all likelihood, the shrimp you buy from your local stores is imported…90% of the shrimp we eat in the U.S. is. China and Thailand are the largest exporters.
  • Less than 2% of the world’s farmed shrimp is inspected by the USDA, meaning I’ll take my chances with local wild-caught shrimp versus farmed shrimp that may have been treated with banned chemicals, antibiotics, pesticides, or other contaminants. In Florida, you can buy brown shrimp from the Gulf, rock shrimp, and Key West pinks. On the West Coast, look for wild spot prawns. In the Northeast, seek out small, sweet cold water shrimp from Maine. If you must buy farm-raised shrimp, look for the “Best Aquaculture Practices Label” issued by the nonprofit Aquaculture Certification Council.

The fresh pesto with flavors of garlic and basil pair nicely with garlic sauteed shrimp and when topped with a squeeze of lemon, the dish comes together beautifully for a weeknight meal.

Pesto Shrimp Spaghetti Squash Bowls

Serves 2-4  

Ingredients:

Squash Boats:

1 large spaghetti squash, cut lengthwise in two

sea salt and pepper

Pesto Sauce:

½ cup tightly packed basil leaves

½ cup tightly packed parsley leaves

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 T. vegan grated parmesan

1/3 cup walnuts or pine nuts

generous pinch sea salt

pinch red chili flakes

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Shrimp:

1 pound raw wild shrimp peeled and deveined

2 T. extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

sea salt

Garnish:

Toasted pine nuts

Lemon wedges

Chopped basil

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Then scoop out the seeds as much as you can. Rub olive oil over the flesh of each half of spaghetti squash and then season generously with salt and pepper.

Place both halves cut-side down on a baking sheet. Roast the squash for 45 to 50 minutes or until the flesh is tender. Remove from oven and allow squash to cool about 10 minutes.

While squash bakes, prepare the pesto and prepare shrimp. Add all pesto ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Pat the peeled and deveined wild shrimp dry with a paper towel, then season generously with sea salt. Add 2 T. olive oil to a large sauté pan and heat over medium heat. Carefully place the shrimp in the pan, and add the minced garlic.

Allow shrimp to cook until it begins to plump and turn pink, about 1 to 2 minutes. Flip shrimp to the other side and allow it to cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside.

Remove squash from oven. When the squash is cool enough to handle, flip it over to flesh side up and use a fork to gently scrape the flesh, releasing spaghetti-like stands. Do this until both halves of the spaghetti squash are scraped clean and place the “spaghetti” into a large serving bowl and set aside.

In your shrimp sauté pan, lower the heat to medium-low, and add the pesto sauce and prepared spaghetti squash. Fold everything together and cook until everything is hot.

Garnish with toasted pine nuts and a squeeze of lemon and sprinkle of chopped basil.

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