Wednesday, October 26, 2011

spaghetti (squash) and meatballs

A few days ago I came across this recipe on one of my favorite cooking sites, and then almost immediately came across spaghetti squash at Trader Joe's. It was fate, I tell you.

1 large spaghetti squash
sea salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 - 2/3 cup fresh ricotta

1/2 - 2/3 cup spaghetti sauce of your choice
2-3 servings of meatballs, cooked (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Put the squash in a shallow baking dish (to prevent rolling) and pierce it on all sides with a knife (about twice on each quarter). Stick it in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until it's a bit soft to the touch and a knife slides in easily. Your house will smell like brown sugar while it bakes, which is awesome.

Let the squash cool until you can handle it easily, then cut it in half lengthwise with a big, sharp knife. Scoop out the seeds and the mushy, dark orange bits from the middle, and discard them. Take a fork and carefully comb out the spaghetti threads, which is all that yellow flesh between the seeds and the rind, into a large baking dish (I used the one I baked the squash in) or oven-proof bowl. The amount of ricotta and sauce you need is based around how much 'spaghetti' you get--my squash wasn't very big but I got about four cups of threads, so I used more cheese and sauce.

The fork should separate the threads enough that you can then toss them with the salt, pepper, and ricotta, which should be broken up but not totally mixed (two big forks will make this easy). At this point you can either mix in the spaghetti sauce (like the original recipe) or leave it to coat the meatballs (my version).

Either way, put the baking dish under the broiler for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the depth of your squash. While it's broiling, heat up your meatballs (and sauce, if you've chosen to do this my way/forgotten to add the sauce to the main dish like I did).

When the dish is a little bit browned on top, take it out and serve with the meatballs. Garnish/spice with crushed red pepper.

This stuff was delicious. The texture is different from real spaghetti in that it crunches a bit and is too tangly for a Lady and the Tramp-style pasta-kiss, but it has a surprising amount of flavor, including some of that brown sugar it imitated while baking. I left the tomato sauce out of the original batch because I wasn't paying attention to the recipe and just plain forgot, but I liked the interplay of squash, ricotta, and crushed pepper enough that I'm not disappointed.

I used my beloved Ikea frozen meatballs and some Ikea spaghetti sauce that turned out to be pretty good, especially after a heavy infusion of sriracha sauce and garlic powder. If you're making a veggie version of this I'd either mix the sauce into the squash before broiling or toss it over some sauteed vegetables while you heat it.

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