I love pasta. I love meat sauce. I love it so much that I decided to make TWO completely different dishes using the popular “pasta and meat sauce” combo.
- Spaghetti squash & ground chicken boats
- Spaghetti & meatballs in red sauce
Let’s start with the lighter option. Spaghetti squash is one of those neat veggies that can trick us into think we’re eating pasta. Obviously it’s not the exact same, but it’s a decent substitute when you feel like eating a big hearty bowl of pasta but don’t have time to take a nap after. It’s very simple to make and takes on the flavour of whatever sauce or ingredients you add to it while remaining crisp, yet tender and slightly sweet.
To cook one of these suckers all you have to do it cut it lengthwise (be careful! It’s hard!), scoop out the seeds and put it flesh side down on a lined baking sheet with a bit of olive oil. Toss it in a 400 oven for 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of your squash. Once it’s cool enough, scrape the inside with a fork to create “spaghetti strands”. Transfer to a bowl and save the squash skins for serving.
Now that we have the “pasta” out of the way, time for the filling!
Ground chicken squash boats
1 pound ground chicken (or turkey! or vegetarian ground round!)
half a package cream cheese
1 cup chicken stock
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup crushed tomatoes/tomato sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Sauté your onions are garlic in a bit of olive oil until soft. Add ground meat and cook for 5-7 minutes then add all of the other ingredients (except the cream cheese), bring to a boil and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Melt in the cream cheese and stir in the spaghetti squash. Transfer the mixture to the squash skin bowls, top with cheese and bake for 10-15 minutes at 400, until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve and enjoy!
WOW WOW WOW. This is to die for. The cream cheese added amazing richness and all the spices brought the ground chicken to a whole new level. Plus, who doesn’t love have their own personal squash bowl! I would totally serve this at a dinner party. It’s fun, creative and amazingly delicious.
Now for the “real” spaghetti and meat dish. Just thinking about this recipe is making me salivate. I feel like I’d make an old Italian woman proud.
Mega Meatballs in Red Sauce
I 500-600 gram jar/can of plain tomato sauce. (You could also use crushed tomatoes)
1 onion, finely diced
4-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp Italian spice (of just a few shakes each of basil, oregano, thyme)
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup water
Salt and pepper
With this sauce, low and slow is key. Toss your onions and garlic in a sauce pan with a bit of oil. Let it sweat for a bit, but don’t let it burn! You don’t want dark bits in your nice red sauce. Then add all of the other ingredients and let simmer anywhere from 45 minutes-1.5 hours. The longer you simmer, the more liquid you’re going to need to add and the deeper the flavour. It will concentrate over time. At first I only added 1/2 a cup of wine and no water and the sauce was way too potent. Add more water or wine as needed. Cooking the sauce for a long time gives it a really nice rich tomato taste without any of that acidic residual “can” taste.
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup (ish) bread crumbs
1 large egg
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp Italian spice
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp milk
1/2 cup-1 cup of grated cheese. (I used a mozzarella, provolone, parmesan combo)
salt and pepper
Mix all of the ingredients together, adding more bread crumbs if it seems way too wet. Form the meat into large golf balls. Pan fry them for a few minutes on each side and then finish simmering in the red sauce, about 12 minutes, depending on the size of your balls 😉 (Note that I put half of the red sauce aside to coat my pasta in before serving.)
While the MB’s are simmering, cook your pasta. Once the pasta is done, toss with sauce and top with meatballs and a few extra dollops of sauce. Garnish with fresh basil, red pepper flakes and parmesan cheese if desired.
I am going to dream about these meat balls tonight. I just ate a plate of nachos but I could still easily eat about 400 of these bad boys. They were moist little meat explosions that didn’t feel greasy or heavy. We had leftovers that I served on homemade bread, topped with cheese and broiled. YUM.
And that’s the story for today folks. I think you know that your Monday is now going to involve some meat ball/sauce fun. Vegans! Impress your pals with the squash boats using veggie ground round. Meat eaters! Make those balls and gain the respect of your loved ones. (not that you don’t already have it…)
As always, thanks for eating with me! You’re all stars.