Friday, November 16, 2012

Baked Spaghetti Squash

If you love Italian flavors, but hate the carb overload that typically accompanies them, this recipe was designed for you.  I love a good fresh pasta, don't get me wrong.  There are however times when I don't want that weighed down feeling in my stomach and would love the same flavors in a lighter version.  Enter, the spaghetti squash.  If you haven't tried spaghetti squash, you're missing out on a fabulous culinary element.  It gives a dish a rich, fiber-filled quality that is incredibly filling but not calorie dense.    I was able to make a 6-serving casserole (and I mean six full servings) for well under 300 calories per portion.

Start by stabbing a whole spaghetti squash with a fork to form air vents and roast in a 425 degree oven for one hour.  Next, heat a cast iron skillet, slice four links of sweet Italian sausage and lightly brown on each side.  Set the sausage aside on a plate and use the fat rendering from the meat to brown one diced shallot, three tablespoons of minced garlic and one quarter of a medium sized white onion.  Add one chopped red bell pepper and one can of diced tomatoes to the pan.  Allow the liquid to reduce by half.  Stir in salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.  Next, add 1/4 cup creme fraiche, 3 tablespoons of milk and 1/4 cup of beef stock and combine all ingredients well.  Turn down the heat to a low simmer and add 6 fresh basil leaves (chiffonade thinly), one tablespoon of fresh oregano and one tablespoon fresh thyme to season.  You can also add two tablespoons of nutritional yeast if you'd like to up your protein levels.

Once the squash is cooked, slice it in half (carefully, there's a lot of steam built up inside), clean out the seeds and shred the flesh of the squash with a fork into spaghetti-like strands.  As your pulling the strands, begin mixing them into your sauce in the cast iron skillet.  If you're skillet isn't large enough, you can also transfer it to a casserole dish.  Once the entire squash has been emptied and combined with the sauce, top with the seared sausage slices and 1/2 cup of grated romano cheese.  Lower your oven heat to 350 degrees and bake for 20 minutes.  This gives you six entree sized portions or 10 side dish portions.  The entire casserole clocks in around 1600 calories.

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