One of the greatest things about living a Paleo lifestyle, besides the obvious health benefits, is the opportunity it has afforded me to try new, delicious foods that I otherwise would have shied away from. Before going Paleo, my family had never tried many of the foods we now enjoy, like plantains, liver, bone broth, and grass fed beef. I literally felt like I had tapped into a virtual culinary goldmine once I discovered all the foods we had been missing out on. The squash family was one of most grossly underused and under appreciated vegetables in our house. We rarely ate squash and if we did, it was the most generic of them all, zucchini. We now have acorn, butternut, delicata, and spaghetti squashes on a regular basis and I am in love with these gems!
Spaghetti squash had never really excited me before I ditched the grains. When you are eating gluten filled pasta dishes, you're not usually on the hunt for a substitute. It's been almost two years since my family and I adopted the Paleo lifestyle, and I am perfectly content without breads, pastas, and the like. I got over those cravings fairly quickly, and now can honestly say I rarely, if ever think about having any carb type foods. BUT, my husband likes his pastas, breads, and pancakes, so I decided it was high time to give spaghetti squash a whirl. Plus, since my boys usually eat my world famous meat sauce on top of Portobello mushrooms, I knew they would appreciate a more noodle like vessel on which to enjoy it. And I'm not gonna lie, the thought of having "spaghetti" sounded pretty darn good to me too.
Sometimes trying to recreate popular foods using a healthier alternative, like trying to sub squash for pasta, can fail epically. Other times, like making coconut flour pancakes, or almond flour pizza crust, the alternatives actually far surpass their gluten laden counterparts in both taste and texture. Now I'm not going to sit here and tell you that spaghetti squash is exactly like pasta. Obviously it's not. But it vastly exceeded my expectations. I am not only absolutely in love with it, but once again found myself asking the question, "how did I live so long without trying this??"
I cut the squash in half and roasted it for about 45 minutes. When it cooled slightly, I scraped the inside with a fork, and low and behold, I had noodles! I tossed mine with some grass fed butter, and a generous amount of s & p and got ready to try a bite. If I was going on looks alone, I was sure to be utterly disappointed. The "noodles" looked bland, and their almost translucent color made them appear watery. To my surprise, the result was quite the opposite. One bite and I knew this was going to open up a whole new dimension to our meals. Immediately my mind wandered to shrimp scampi, chicken fettuccini, and hubby's favorite; carbonara. The squash was delicious just as it was, simply dressed with butter and salt and pepper, and was about to be made even better with the addition of my rockin' meat sauce.
I was going to score some major points tonight, once my carb loving hubby had a taste of this masterpiece! My boys, 5 and 2, were also very pleased with dinner tonight. My oldest has been eating Paleo since he was about 3 and 1/2, so he vaguely remembers pasta. The only time he's even asked about pasta was recently when a friend at school told him their favorite dish was mac and cheese and he wanted to know if he had ever had it. My youngest has never had grains, so he had nothing to compare this dish too, and he loves a good tomato sauce, so needless to say he was thrilled with his "spaghetti" and kept asking for "mo, mo."
Chock another one up to good 'ol Paleo for introducing me to a food I otherwise probably would have died without ever trying. Coming from a recovering picky eater, this is huge. I am genuinely excited and eternally grateful for the veritable smorgasbord of new flavors and foods that Paleo has exposed me to. Question is, what new food is next?
Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce
1 medium spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise
1 lb bulk Italian sausage
1 bell pepper, chopped ( I used yellow, but red or orange would work too!)
1 zucchini, chopped
1 yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (14.5 0z) can of tomato sauce
1 (14.5 0z) can of crushed tomatoes
2 Tbs tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c fresh basil, finely chopped
1/4 c fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing squash
2 Tbs fat of choice (bacon, olive oil, ghee... I used bacon fat)
For the squash:
Preheat oven to 375.
Cut the squash in half lengthwise with a sharp knife. I like to go all the way around on both sides, leaving the stem for last.
Scoop out and discard the seeds (a measuring spoon with a sharp edge on it works well!) You can also roast the seeds like pumpkin seeds if you wish.
Brush halves with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place cut side down on a roasting pan or baking sheet.
Roast for about 45 to 50 minutes, or until a easily pierced with a fork.
Remove squash from the oven and allow it to cool until it can be handled, about 4-5 minutes. Scrape the flesh from the squash into "noodles" with a fork and place in a bowl. If some of the strands clump together, simply separate them with your hands.
Season squash noodles with butter and a bit more salt and pepper, if desired. Top with meat sauce and dig in!
For the meat sauce:
Brown sausage in a cast iron skillet until browned and cooked through. Set aside.
Add 2 Tbs of fat back into skillet and set to medium heat. Add onions, peppers, zucchini, and garlic, and cook until softened.
Add tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, dried seasonings, bay leaf, and salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
When sauce is finished cooking, turn off heat, remove bay leaf, and add fresh basil and parsley, cooked sausage and 1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt & pepper if needed. Mix well and pour this delicious sauce over spaghetti squash noodles or anything else your little heart desires!