The first time my mom prepared spaghetti squash, I thought she was moonlighting as a magician. How in the world did she change the squash into spaghetti?? (I was an imaginative child, err 15 year old). Any vegetable with magical qualities is okay in my (cook)book.
Lately, I’ve been a bit uninspired with spaghetti squash. My tendency has been quick and simple: Seasoned with salt and pepper and a dollop of Smart Balance. There are so many ways to prepare spaghetti squash, but out of convenience and a busy schedule, I found myself sticking to the same ol’ same ol’. Finding oneself stuck in a food rut is as good a time as any to get creative in the kitchen. I purchased a mammoth spaghetti squash from the store (this thing was at least 5 pounds), and I turned to Everyday Food Magazine for inspiration as their January/February issue had an entire spread dedicated to a variety of spaghetti squash recipes.
All I needed was a rough outline to get those creative juices churning. Everyday Food provided the basic steps, but I modified the ingredients quite a bit. (Goodbye celery, hasta la vista, bacon). A quick scan of the fridge and my pantry lit light bulbs above my head, “Ooo, Kalamata olives!” “Why not red wine?” “Hold the cow bell, I need more carrots!” This bolognese sauce became an experimental concoction, which smelled like I knew what I was doing all along. Bonus.
The result? Spicy, zesty, plate lickin’ good. The red pepper flakes and Kalamata olives gave the sauce a flavorful kick, while the carrots added crunch. All the while, the dry red wine lingered in the background like a wallflower. Not overbearing, but a subtle, polite party guest. C, my food tester, is not a pasta eater. I’m lucky if I can get him to eat pasta as a mere side dish, let alone a main course. He ate TWO bowls of this sauce and “spaghetti” and even took a large Tupperware of it to work the next day. Yup, a winner indeed.
Turkey Bolognese and Spaghetti (Squash)
*Adapted from Everyday Food
1 spaghetti squash (at least 3lbs)
1lb lean ground turkey
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced fine
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, chopped
28oz can unseasoned crushed tomatoes
1/3 cup dry red wine
1 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. Prick squash all over with a sharp knife. Place squash on rimmed baking sheet and roast for 1 hour and 20 minutes, turning halfway through. (Squash is done when tender and easily pricked with a knife). Setaside to cool while you cook the sauce.
2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion, carrots, and garlic and cook until tender, about 12-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
3. In the same skillet, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the ground turkey and stir often, breaking meat with a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes or until just about cooked through. (Since the turkey is lean, there is barely any fat cooking off the meat. If the meat looks dry, add another tablespoon of oil).
4. Add vegetables back to the skillet along with tomatoes, olives, and red pepper flakes. Lower heat slightly and bring to a simmer. Cook sauce for five minutes to thicken.
5. Decrease the heat to the lowest setting and add the red wine. Simmer for an additional minute or two.
6. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and carefully scoop out the seeds. Scrape insides of the squash with a fork to remove the flesh into long, spaghetti-like strands into a large bowl. Don’t be timid, really scrape! You’ll be amazed how much “squash” you can get out of those two halves.
7. Pour sauce over squash and top with Parmesan, if desired.