Monday, September 20, 2010

Spaghetti Squash with Meaty Marinara

We did our first go-around on spaghetti squash as a stand-in for spaghetti on Sunday night. (Yes, this had been the plan for later this week, but when I saw little mouldy spots developing on the outside of the squash's rind, I figured better last night than later!) I'll admit that I'm usually reluctant to deal in "substitutes" for carby grain-based fare, as normally I'd prefer to focus on what tastes better from the myriad choices of meats, poultry, seafood, veg, fruits, etc. - on their own merits. But I was willing to give spaghetti squash a go because my preschooler had been such a pasta fan in our past preprimal life - and it pleasantly surprised me!

After reading a few renditions on how to go about cooking the squash, I did sort of an amalgam - basically halved the squash at the equator, then drizzled the 1-inch rim of the squash meat with butter melted with garlic powder. (I used 4 halves, aka 2 squashes for our family, which was also enough for one leftover Pyrex container for my husband's lunch, pictured above.) I then placed the squash halves cut-side-down in two baking pans, and baked for one hour at 400. After removing from the oven, the seeds and inner pulp removed quite easily. I used a fork to gently separate the squash meat from the inside of the rind, using a "fluffing" motion.

The squash was tender, but not too tender, and with a delicate flavor, and just a bit sweet. A great combination with a meaty marinara sauce! My preschooler announced her approval more than once during dinner, and my husband said that it stood on its own as a very tasty dish - rather than evaluate it as a pasta concept. Hey, what do you know? Some stand-ins, it seems, are worthwhile. And at 10 g carbohydrates in a 1 cup serving along with Vitamin C and other nutrients, spaghetti squash far bests standard spaghetti (43 g of carbohydrates per cup cooked!) in terms of nutritional value. Bonus: My 9-month-old loved eating the squash by the handful - perfect texture for a finger food.

The only thing that I might try to change for future renditions is that it was a bit "soggy", and I think, based on what I have read, that this could be easily solved by salting it before baking and allowing it to sit cut-side-down to drain much of the juices for half an hour or more. I'd also remove the cooked spaghetti strands into a strainer and allow to drain as long as possible before they cooled too much for serving.

As for the sauce, here we go:

Meaty Marinara
Serves 4 adults, along with the "spaghetti" of two squash, or in a large pan of eggplant lasagna

1 large can (~28 oz.) crushed tomatoes (I picked a variety with basil)*
1 standard-sized jar pasta sauce with no added sugar, corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, etc.(I used Amy's this time)
1 lb. sliced mushrooms
1 large white onion, sliced into thin 1" strips or smaller
2 standard tomatoes, diced into 1/2" cubes
2 tablespoons butter
Mixed dried Italian spices (My mix had rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage, etc.)
Salt, to taste
2 lb. grass fed ground beef

If serving with spaghetti squash, place spaghetti squash in the oven to bake first. If serving as part of eggplant lasagna, brown eggplant and layer the eggplant with cheese first.

Open can of crushed tomatoes and pour into crockpot or deep pot on stove on low setting to warm.

Place onions, mushrooms, and butter in large pan, and sautee for 5 minutes on high, or until onions begin to brown. Add diced tomatoes and stir, cooking an additional 2 minutes. Add this veggie mix to the pot with the crushed tomatoes. Using the same large pan, brown ground beef until almost cooked through, add salt and Italian spices to taste, then add the almost-cooked beef to the veggie/sauce mix in the pot (it will finish cooking here, and since it is easy to over-cook grass-fed beef the beef should still be pink in some places when added). Add in jar of selected pasta sauce to the pot, and stir to combine. Serve piping hot, and garnish with freshly-grated parmesan if desired.


*Yes, I'm aware of the concerns over toxic BPA in can linings. For that reason, I rarely involve canned products in my cooking. I'm working on getting a good source for tomato products (crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, etc.) sold in glass jars.

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