Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Spaghetti Squash with Meat and Veggie Sauce

I'm not a pasta/grains person anyway, and used to just eat things that were supposed to go over pasta/rice/quinoa over lettuce or spinach or nothing instead.  Yeah, I know the lettuce is a little weird, but adds nice volume and tricks you into thinking you have a huge plateful of food (awesome trick for an Indian restaurant buffet- skip the rice!).

But then I added spaghetti squash into my lettuce/spinach/nothing rotation, and I'll tell you, it's much more "other people" friendly.  It is a little strange to serve yourself a plate of lettuce and then dump meat sauce over the top when everyone else is having pasta or whatever with their sauce.  Spaghetti squash doesn't get so many strange looks and everyone I've ever introduced it to likes it.  You could even mix it half and half with real pasta for those suspicious eaters.  

It's perfect for anyone trying to eat less carbs, going gluten-free, or just trying to avoid processed foods. Or anyone who just plain doesn't like pasta.  It doesn't really have much flavor of its own, but has a nice crisp texture.

The sauce I made this time is pretty simple and quick.  I added ground beef to it, but added plenty of vegetables so that the beef would stretch a little further and we'd eat a little less of it.  You can add whatever other vegetables you have on hand (eggplant, zucchini, peppers) and leave out the mushrooms if you want.  Add a splash of red wine if you have a bottle open. :-)

This will make 4-6 servings, depending on appetite and if you have any sort of side dish.

What you need:

1 spaghetti squash (medium-sized, I guess?)

1 pound of ground beef (mine was 96/4... if you use something much fattier, make sure to drain it!)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small/medium onion, diced
8-9 cloves garlic, minced (or less if you aren't a garlic fiend)
1-2 stalks celery, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1 large carrot, diced or thinly sliced
12 ounces mushrooms, cut into small pieces
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes

Seasonings: (mix these up as much as you want, depending on what you have)
     Italian seasoning, oregano, basil, rosemary, sage, crushed red pepper, thyme...

     This time I used: Italian seasoning, fresh rosemary and fresh sage... because that's what I happened to have.  I often just go heavy handed with the dried oregano and thyme because those are often what I have on hand.

Roast the Squash:

Start by roasting your squash.  I did it in a 350 degree oven for about an hour this time.  Whole, with a couple of fork pokes.  This does mean that you have to deal with the seeds and pulpy stuff after it cooks... which is a little more of a pain.  But you don't have to saw through it at least.  

You can also cut in in half first, remove the seeds, spray the cut side with oil, and roast it for 30-40 minutes.  Or you can microwave it (google that... I never do it that way).  It's hard to overcook it, but very possible- apparently.  I did it last time I made spaghetti squash, but before that I would have said it was nearly impossible.  But I guess it is- it will turn to mush and become decidedly un-spaghetti like.  When it's done, it should be slightly soft and easy to cut into.  If you run a fork through it, the strands will appear.

Make the Sauce:

While your squash is roasting, make your sauce.  Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the ground beef and let it brown.  Add the onion, garlic, celery, carrot, and salt.  Sauce for about 5 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and saute for another 3-5 minutes.  Add both cans of tomatoes and your seasonings.  Bring to a simmer, and reduce heat to medium-low.  Let simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If you have more time, let it simmer longer, but keep the pot mostly covered.  After it has simmered, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Shred the spaghetti squash and serve with the meat and veggie sauce on top.  Sprinkle with a little Parmesan if you'd like.

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