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.

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.

Printable version (requires Adobe Reader)

Posted in participation of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday

21 thoughts on “Pasghetti”

  1. How much do I love you? Let me count the carbs!
    The brown rice pasta was very good last night and VERY FILLING. 🙂
    I have made spaghetti squash before and liked it, John did too, but Sprite was not a fan. This stuff last night, she gobbled right up, even though it had a slightly different taste than normal pasta. (Although she’s coming from whole wheat versions, so she doesn’t really know herself..)
    Thank you for answering my question on sauce. I was looking at the organic brands and they ALL have sugar. I’m going your route next time. Mwah!

  2. You won’t eat grains but you are OK with plastic wrap in a microwave? Not what I expected. I have chemical paranoia and haven’t put anything plastic in the microwave, ever.

    1. No, I’m actually one of those people who has a problem with microwaves and plastic wrap (as well as Styrofoam, but I haven’t even had Styrofoam in my house in years) – I usually roast my squash since it’s a huge pain in the ass to peel it , cube it and steam it in a steamer (I have yet to find a steam basket that will hold a halved, or even whole, spaghetti squash). However, most people don’t have a problem with it, it really does give the squash a more neutral flavor and I try to only tackle one issue at a time. 😉

  3. excellent post. we discovered spaghetti squash a few years ago for this exact reason, a pasta replacement. never had it before then. this stuff works great. kinda flavorless so bold sauces are appropriate. good for you for spreading the word.

    1. Yup, we love it too. Better yet, my picky son loves it! The first time I fed it to him, I just roasted it and tossed the strands with salt and pepper, EVOO and sauteed garlic. The kid not only ate it, but went back for seconds, something he very rarely does.

  4. the good thing about spaghetti squash is that it keeps for a long time in the right conditions. If you Have space, keep it in a cool dry place for up to 8 months. When it comes into season, you’re set.
    Also, its a bit expensive, but you can also use a beringer tool. It is a cross between a mandolin and a peeler that can make what we call vegetable spaghetti. We have used it with carrots, turnips, beets, zucchini or any other hardish vegetable. You could even make a mix of veggies and get them on your plate.
    The tool can be found in Chinatown, but it is bit expensive…

    1. We bought a TON of winter squashes last fall from local farms and stored them in a box in our garage, covered with a couple of old towels. I was really impressed with how well they kept – all the way through March. By then we only had one or two left, but while they weren’t rotten they were old and tough.

      I’ve been wanting to buy one of those spiral slicer things – I’ve heard they make great zucchini “noodles.” But I think I’ll look for the beringer tool online; if it’s not too terribly expensive I’ll order one.

  5. Mmmm. spaghetti squash. Even LG likes it. However, it just doesn’t replace real pasta to me. Sorry. I do make my own sauce, though.

    And as for the “health” section of the grocery store? I learned the hard way to steer clear. So much of that stuff if still krappe, and just giving off the illusion of health. The only healthy thing about it is the price tag.

    1. I’ve never been one of those pasta-addicted people (and I don’t understand them to be perfectly honest). It could all fall off the face of the Earth tomorrow and I wouldn’t miss it. For me, pasta dishes are about the sauces, and this is a good one, indeed!

      Health food stores in general make me cringe – yes, we found some very nice chicken livers and a turkey breast at the Mustard Seed in Akron yesterday, but for the most part the aisles are filled with the same sort of processed carbage as a regular grocery store – it’s just all “organic.”

  6. My mom is highly allergic to all wheat products, and has been my entire life. She got quite innovative with her cooking and squash was often used as a substitute Maybe that’s why I love it so much??

    1. I didn’t know your Mom has Celiac – but yes, that could account for why you love squash so much!

  7. I’ve got to find me some spaghetti squash. I made spaghetti with rice pasta this week too, but decided to eat the leftover pasta sauce the following day without the pasta. I put it over a bed of fresh spinach instead. It was great! Just wanted to throw another alternative out there.

    1. We’ve done the spinach thing, too – it’s my preferred base for garlic and alfredo sauces, in fact.

  8. Spaghetti squash has been a favorite in our house forever. Since I’ve gone low carb I’ve been giving things like peeling zucchini and broccoli in place of noodles a try. I also use cauliflower instead of potatoes for mashed potatoes.

    1. The cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes has long been a staple in our home – it is delicious! I’m impressed that you’re low-carbing a vegetarian diet – that’s not easy to do. But then again, you’re pretty impressive! 😉

  9. Italian meat sauce is a frequent meal choice in our household. Sometimes my husband cooks spaghetti sauce for the base, but more often we use green beans, or sometimes zucchini. Or sometimes I just eat a big bowl of the sauce!

  10. Pingback: Mock Lasagna

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