An ode to my readers: O, how I love thee…let me count the ways…
Well, for one, you’re all so dang smart, and ask such good questions and leave great comments.
Yesterday the lovely Jen of Sprite’s Keeper commented that she was making a spaghetti dinner with some brown rice pasta her husband had purchased, and that she was going to try and find a good organic sauce for it. However, she did note that the pasta, which was made from brown rice and beet and spinach powders, was still over 40 grams of carbohydrate per serving.
I think that if you’re not concerned about weight loss and are an active person, that carb count shouldn’t really worry you (I’m what’s known as “metabolically deranged” – yes, it’s very apropos – so I wouldn’t be able to touch it). While gluten-free products are truly a boon for persons with celiac disease, or even just gluten intolerant, what you should worry about is the fact it’s still made from a grain (brown rice), which in all likelihood has not been properly prepared by soaking and/or sprouting, and is still a processed food. Let’s face it – beet and spinach powders aren’t something you can just whip up in your kitchen.
Now, having said that I’m not going to tell you that you can never eat pasta dishes again – there are ways around that. And when it comes to a nice base for a hearty meat sauce, I have two words for you:
Spaghetti squash is your best friend if you’re looking for a non-processed, gluten/grain/egg-free, real food alternative to spaghetti; it even makes a reasonable base for lasagna if you’re feeling creative. It’s also the winter squash that’s the lowest in carbohydrates – a 1/2 cup serving contains only 5 grams of carbs, 1 of which is fiber. It also a fairly good source of vitamin C and calcium. Roasted or steamed and scraped out of the shell with the tines of a fork, it gives you a reasonable approximation of the look and texture of spaghetti.
A couple of caveats – it’s still a winter squash, so it might be a little expensive out of season or in areas where winter squashes are not naturally abundant (but then again, have you seen the price on gluten-free pasta??). And because it’s a winter squash it’s going to be a tad on the sweet side, but you can ameliorate that by choosing your squash with care, and steaming it rather than roasting it. Choose as light-colored squash as you can find – cream-colored is good, although yellow will work in a pinch. Avoid orange-colored spaghetti squash; it will be very sweet. And of course you won’t be able to twirl it around your fork, but that always irritated me anyway.
As for the sauce, making it yourself is really quite easy if you choose your canned sauce with care – make sure it’s just tomatoes and maybe salt. Read the label carefully; an “organic” claim on the label doesn’t mean it’s not full of undesirable crap like sugar.
Note: I’m giving directions on how to steam the spaghetti squash in the microwave, but you can roast it if you prefer the flavor or dislike microwaves and plastic wrap (some people do). Cut it in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and strings in the center, rub the cut side lightly with olive oil and place it cut side down on a shallow, rimmed baking sheet. Place it in an oven that’s been heated to 350 F and roast for about 40 minutes.
Note 2: It’s called “Pasghetti” because it’s a) not traditional spaghetti pasta and 2) that’s what my kids call it.
Note 3: You’ll probably have some sauce left over. Which is fine; you can use it for any number of other dishes. One of my favorites in the past has been to stuff bell peppers with the same ricotta cheese filling you’d use in lasagna, cover it with the leftover sauce and bake them in the oven until the pepper is soft and the filling is cooked through. Or you can make more squash or halve the sauce. It’s up to you.
serves 6 to 8, with some sauce left over
1 large spaghetti squash
2 pounds ground beef, preferably grass-fed
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped or 2 teaspoons dried
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped or 2 teaspoons
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat; add the ground beef and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon or spatula, until it’s almost browned and much of the fat and liquid has been released. Season with the salt and pepper and add the onion. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the onion has softened. Add the garlic to the pan, stir and cook for another minute or until the ground beef is completely cooked through.
Stir in the tomato sauce, tomato paste, herbs and red pepper flakes, if using. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the mixture has thickened a bit and the flavors have blended well, about 10 minutes. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired.
While the sauce is simmering, cut the squash in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds and stringy stuff in the center. Place it, cut side down, in a large, microwave safe dish with about two tablespoons of water. Cover the dish with microwave safe plastic wrap and microwave on high for 3 to 6 minutes, or until the squash can be easily pierced with the tines of a fork. Using the same fork, scrape the flesh of the squash into a large bowl, creating spaghetti-like “strings.” Toss with a little salt and pepper and about a teaspoon of olive oil.
Place 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the spaghetti squash on a plate and top with an equal amount of sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, if desired, and serve immediately.
Posted in participation of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday