I’d been craving a comforting bowl of spaghetti and meatballs and came up with this low-carb, healthy version using spaghetti squash instead of pasta.
OK, it’s not the same but it’s light, fresh-tasting and totally satisfying. A summery alternative. Vegetarians can omit the meatballs; just add the chopped porcini and their soaking liquid to the sauce and proceed from there – and the meatballs will be great without the porcini mushrooms if you don’t gather your own, or can’t find them in your supermarket.
And I suppose you could ignore the spaghetti squash altogether and use regular spaghetti. This is just a delicious variation on a theme.
If you buy dried porcini, once they’ve soaked in hot water you’ll need to strain them through a layer of paper towel in a fine mesh strainer. Save the soaking liquid – it will go into the tomato sauce along with half a glass of good red wine. Rinse the strained, soaked porcini carefully under cold water to remove any residual woodland flora and fauna before chopping them.
I used organic ingredients including Muir Glen Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce (a really good shortcut if you don’t have time to make your sauce from scratch). If you can’t find it, use your favorite pasta sauce.
SPAGHETTI SQUASH with PORCINI MEATBALLS
(Serves 4- 6)
1 lb (½ kilo) of lean ground beef, bison or buffalo (preferably organic)
½ oz (14g) of dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 8 fl oz (237ml) of hot water, strained then finely chopped – soaking liquid reserved
1 oz / 1/3 cup (28g) of fresh homemade breadcrumbs
½ oz / 1/4 cup (14g) of freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese plus extra for serving
1 egg, lightly beaten
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 spaghetti squash weighing 2 ½ – 3 lbs (1.15 – 1.4kilos)
25.5oz (723g) jar of your favorite tomato-based pasta sauce (preferably organic)
½ glass of good red wine
High-temp oil for frying (I use avocado oil)
Pre-heat the oven to 400F (200C). Halve the spaghetti squash, scoop out the seeds and brush the cut edges with a little olive oil. Place cut side down on a foil-lined baking tray and bake for 40-45 minutes until the squash is tender when pierced with a sharp knife.
Remove from the oven and when cool enough to handle, scrape out the squash strands with a fork then carefully mix with a little sea salt, black pepper and a dash of olive oil. Set aside.
To make the meatballs: thoroughly mix together (use a fork if your squeamish), the ground meat, egg, breadcrumbs, grated cheese, chopped porcini and a good grind of sea salt and black pepper. With wet hands form the mixture into 16 meatballs and chill for 30 mins.
Heat the oil in a wide non-stick skillet and brown the meatballs in three batches, turning carefully. Transfer them to a plate.
In a deep pan, combine the tomato sauce, porcini soaking liquid and red wine and bring it to a simmer. Carefully add the meatballs, cover and simmer for 35 minutes.
Before serving, reheat the squash in either a microwave for 1-2 minutes, or covered in a 400F (200C) oven for 10-12 minutes.
To serve, pour a little sauce in each bowl, top with the spaghetti squash and arrange the meatballs around. Offer some freshly grated parmesan to sprinkle on top and some hot crusty bread on the side if you can’t live without your starch carbs.