December 04, 2011

Oven Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce

I love pasta.  I am also trying to lose weight this winter, rather than gain my typical 5lbs of "insulation".  So, I'm trying to eat a little lighter this winter: skipping some unnecessary carbs, and doing my best to eat more fruits and vegetables.  I remember a couple of years ago, my mom told me that she had made spaghetti squash "pasta" as a stand in for one of my beloved starches.  I tried it, liked it, made it once at home... but it didn't become part of my rotation of go-to meals.  I decided last night, I would give it another shot.

The one time before that I made spaghetti squash, I steamed it in the microwave.  It was quick and easy to do, but I needed to do better.  The microwaved/steamed version that I had made before was watery, not very flavorful, and miles away from any pasta I'd ever had.

This time, I decided to try cooking the squash differently to see if I ended up with a more flavorful result.  So, I "googled" how to cook spaghetti squash.  It turns out that this squash, although perhaps more fun than the others, is just as easy to cook as its cousins the acorn and butternut.  Simple oven roasting.  I already had the oven on from baking my cookies for the cookie exchange tomorrow, (more on that next time), so I decided I would give it a try.  Oven roasting vegetables highlights their natural flavors and adds such a comforting, hearty quality... I had to try it.  The result: delicious, slightly sweet and a little nutty, I would have been more than happy to eat the whole squash all on its own, fresh out of the oven.  I did, however, throw together a light, simple meat sauce to add some protein for a more complete meal.

Oven Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce
Serves 4 (approximate)

For Squash:
1 medium spaghetti squash
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

For Sauce:
2 lg. garlic cloves, chopped
1 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 (14.5oz) cans diced tomatoes, and their juice

Preheat oven to 375.  Slice squash in half lengthwise.  Scoop out and discard seeds and pulp.  Brush cut sides of squash with olive oil, coating completely.  Season with salt and pepper.  Coat a baking dish with cooking spray.  Place squash, cut side down, in baking dish.  Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes, or until fork tender.  Remove from oven, and set aside to cool in dish until cool enough to handle.

While squash is cooking, place a saucepan over medium heat.  Add ground beef, and garlic.  Cook until meat is browned, breaking up the beef into small pieces.  Strain fat, (if there is any).  Season with the salt, pepper, and other spices.  Pour the tomatoes, with their juices, into the saucepan with the meat and simmer on low heat for 5-10 minutes.  (The sauce will become less runny, and the flavors will have a chance to develop.)

Once the squash is cool enough to handle, turn the squash halves over so they are facing cut side up.  Run a fork through the squash, and it will easily separate into noodle-like strands.  Scoop squash into bowl, top with meat sauce and serve.

Roasting the squash was definitely the way to go.  I plan on trying roasted spaghetti squash as a side dish, and will be making roasted spaghetti squash "pasta" one of my go-to dinners.  If you're craving heavy noodles, or are a die-hard pasta fan, this isn't the perfect replacement for real spaghetti... but its definitely something you should try anyway!

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