Saturday, January 12, 2013

Spaghetti Squash with Zesty Roasted Tomato Sauce

spaghetti squash with roasted tomato sauce
This robust yet healthy recipe is vegan and can be enjoyed as a side dish or a main course. Spaghetti squash is used frequently in low-carb diets as an alternative to pasta because of the way the cooked pulp separates into spaghetti-like strands. The texture is crunchier than that of pasta, and it does have a mild winter-squash flavor of course, but if you're open to those differences then you can enjoy spaghetti squash with all of your favorite pasta sauces, from traditional tomato sauces to pesto, alfredo, carbonara, puttanesca, and even simple butter or olive oil with garlic and herbs.

As with many vegetables, the key to delicious spaghetti squash is not to overcook it. Most cookbooks recommend boiling the whole squash after piercing a few times with a fork, or halving it and cooking in the microwave or oven after scooping out the seeds. I've tried all three methods, and while using the microwave is indeed the fastest I prefer to cook spaghetti squash in a conventional or convection oven because it's the least likely to result in mushy, water-logged, overcooked squash. So if you have the time to let the squash cook for an hour and then cool a few minutes before handling, go ahead and use your oven. After all, you can spend the cooking & cooling time doing something else, like making the sauce for this recipe.

In an ideal world (or at least in the summertime when vine-ripened tomatoes and fresh herbs are readily available), I would have roasted some fresh tomatoes and used fresh herbs for the sauce, or followed my recipe for Roasted Tomato Sauce. But because it's winter (and also for the convenience), I used a can of fire-roasted organic tomatoes and dried herbs. Feel free to roast tomatoes or substitute fresh or different herbs if you wish. You can also add a splash of red wine to the sauce as it cooks. If you eat cheese you can sprinkle some shredded or grated Parmigiano cheese at the table.

recipe for spaghetti squash with roasted tomato sauce
1 spaghetti squash (about 2 lbs)
1 or 2 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 bell pepper, coarsely chopped
6 to 10 garlic cloves (to taste), coarsely chopped
1 can (28 oz) diced fire-roasted tomatoes (I used no salt added)
1 roasted red pepper, coarsely chopped
Dried herbs: I used 1 tsp each of basil, oregano & parsley, plus 1/2 tsp thyme
Salt & black pepper to taste: I used 1/4 tsp pepper and 1/2 tsp Kosher salt, plus crushed red pepper flakes at the table

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds (save for roasting, if you wish). Place squash cut-side down in a roasting pan or baking dish with about 1/2" water. In a separate pan or dish combine the onion, bell pepper, garlic and olive oil. Place both pans in oven and roast at 400°F until squash is fork-tender and the other vegetables are roasted (light golden brown & softened), about 1 hour. While these are cooking, combine tomatoes, roasted red pepper and herbs in a saucepan and heat to a low simmer, stirring occasionally.

spaghetti squash
Remove cooked squash from oven and allow to cool to the touch. While the squash is cooling, spoon the roasted vegetables into the tomato mixture and stir. The longer this sauce simmers, the better the flavors.

When the squash is cool enough to handle, use a fork to gently scrape the pulp into a bowl, separating the strands (see photo on left).

Taste the sauce and season with salt & pepper to taste.

Serve the squash topped with the sauce, and sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes and/or parmesan cheese if desired.

Serves 4 as a main course, or 6 to 8 as a side dish.

Zestfully yours,

PS: If you're not vegetarian or vegan, you can add meatballs, crumbled bacon, or cooked ground meat or sausage to the sauce.

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