First up, let’s just get this out of the way: spaghetti squash is not pasta. It is never going to be pasta. No one will be fooled. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a place in your kitchen.
Me, I’ve been tinkering away perfecting this bad boy for some time now, and am now ready to share it with the world. The internet is full of recipes for spaghetti squash and meatballs, many of them containing three paragraphs about the evils of actual pasta, but all of them were found wanting. But, why are we doing this at all?
1. It tastes incredible.
2. It is a vegetable, which is something your body needs anyway, like the calcium in Tums.
3. It is pretty and colourful.
4. My mom can’t be more than three feet from a bathroom for two days if she eats gluten accidentally, but she misses pasta.
5. …it is also paleo.
6. You can eat incredibly large amounts of it without feeling overly full.
7. You get to hack up a massive squash.
8. SEASONAL EATING.
Now, to the recipe! It serves, I don’t know, either 5-6 people or 2 people who then eat large amounts of it for 3 nights? The sauce just gets better, and I’ll tell you how to perk up the squash on subsequent days.
1 large spaghetti squash
2 TB olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped (BUY A FREAKING MEZZALUNA TO CHOP AND MINCE IT CHANGES LIVES)
2-3 garlic cloves, minced (I just buy huge jars of minced garlic)
6 cups diced tomatoes, pureed tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, leftover tomatoes, whatever. (I love San Marzano tomatoes, personally.)
3 heaping TB tomato paste (try to buy the kind in the squeezy tubes, they last better than the little jars you end up tossing)
1.5 TB Italian seasoning
1 TB dried basil
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
Meatballs (I do all-meat, because that’s how I roll, but if you’re not gluten-intolerant or paleo or whatever, toss in some breadcrumbs):
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
.5 TB dried basil
.5 TB dried oregano
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
OKAY, let’s boogie. Preheat your oven to 450. Put a large pot over medium heat on your stove, add the olive oil when the pot is hot, saute the chopped onion until it smells amazing and is soft and a little bit brown around the edges.
Toss in the garlic, and stir like CRAZY for a minute, because you want the garlic brown but not burnt.
Dump in the tomatoes and tomato paste, mix it all up. Dump in all the sauce spices, mix it all up.
Let it come to a simmer, then turn the heat down to low.
Put the meat and the meatball spices into a bowl, work it together with your hands (take off your rings first!), and roll yourself a bunch of golf ball-sized meatballs.
Now, a point of contention. To brown or not to brown. Generally, if you brown your meatballs, the meatballs will taste a little better, and if you do not brown your meatballs, your sauce will taste a little better, because there will be more delicious meat-leakage, which is a horrible phrase and I apologize for it. Go ahead and brown your meatballs. I (and Tom Colicchio) usually choose not to, him for sensible reasons and me because who wants to wash another stupid pan?
Drop ’em in the sauce. Let them hang out. Press them down a bit with a wooden spoon so there is sauce over them.
Let us turn our attention to the squash now. To make the next step easier, take a knife and gouge it about six times all over. Put it on a plate and pop it in the microwave on high for two minutes. Flip it over, and do it for another two minutes.
Let it rest a bit, it’s hot.
Now, get a sharp knife, and DO NOT FUCKING HURT YOURSELF, but cut the squash in half. Not lengthwise, it’s too hard. Just down the middle. You may engage in some sawing to achieve this end. Dig out and discard the seeds.
Get a roasting pan (I just use a Pyrex baking dish), put the two squash halves in it, cut-side down. Pour water into the pan until it comes about two inches up the side of your squash. Tent it as tightly as you can with aluminum foil, pop it in the oven.
Let it bake for 40 minutes, while your sauce simmers merrily away on low.
Take it carefully out of the oven: I like to skewer each squash half with a knife and put it on a plate so I don’t have to carry a boiling pan of water out of the oven. You can get the pan out of the oven the next morning when you remember it.
Using a knife or a fork, scrape the spaghetti-looking strands out of the squash, put them on your plates, pour the meatballs and sauce over them, top with Parmesan if you have it, eat!
If you want to gussy it up some, and on subsequent nights to reheat the squash, toss the amount you’re eating in a hot pan with some olive oil and salt, and stir it around until it’s even tastier. To reheat the sauce, please put it back on the stove and let it simmer slowly again, it’s worth it.
Okay, have fun! Tell me if you like it!
Nicole is an Editor of The Toast.