Sunday, September 8, 2013

Spaghetti Squash with Tomato Sauce and Fresh Mozzarella

I got in trouble again this year for planting too many plants of the squash variety. Every year, I get addicted to planting squash-y plants because they make me feel like an ace gardener because they are prolific with little effort. My husband then gets annoyed with me for letting our garden become a tangled mass of squash and pumpkin vines and for needing to incorporate some form of squash into every summer meal. For example, after bringing zucchini to every BBQ we go to and handing them out as party favors, I still have a crisper drawer full of them. I just picked a GIANT Hubbard squash and have been eating it all week as a sweet afternoon snack. I roasted it and whenever I want a pseudo-pumpkin pie treat, I mash up a bit with cinnamon, brown sugar and butter and heat it. So good [which is good because my husband and son don't love it, so I have a lot to go through].

Our first few spaghetti squash were ripe for the plucking the other day. 

I normally roast them, scoop out the noodle-like interior and mix it together with marinara sauce and serve it as a typical spaghetti dinner [sometimes with turkey meatballs too]. I wanted something with the same flavor profile but a little bit sassier. I remembered that I had some fresh mozzarella in the fridge and knew exactly what I would do. Spaghetti squash mixed in its shell with a chunky tomato sauce, then topped with fresh mozzarella and broiled. 

Spaghetti Squash with Tomato Sauce and Fresh Mozzarella 
*Serves 2 as a hefty main course and 4 as a side [or a smaller main dish served with bread and salad]
1 spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise with seeds removed
6 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced [grated mozzarella would be fine]
4 T grated parmesan cheese
2 T fresh basil, torn into pieces

Tomato Sauce
*One of the fun parts of this dish is that it can be as simple as opening a jar of marinara and adding whatever sauteed veggies you want [mushrooms, onions, zucchini, red peppers]. I chose to make a really chunky tomato sauce. 
2 T olive oil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 small yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tsp balsamic vinegar [I used this in place of red wine]
2, 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes
1 tsp each dried oregano and basil
1/2 tsp sugar

Begin by placing both squash halves in a large stock pot and covering them with cold water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat and then let boil for 15 minutes. 
I decided to boil up both of my squash so that the other one would be ready to go in the future!
While the water is coming to a boil, prepare your tomato sauce. If you decide to use a pre-made jar, warm it on the stove during this time and saute any veggies that you would like to add. 

My sauce was made by heating the olive oil and red pepper flakes together in a large frying pan over medium heat for about a minute. Add the onions, salt and pepper and let them saute over medium heat until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and let that cook for about a minute.  

Deglaze the pan with the balsamic vinegar. Add the diced tomatoes and mash them slightly with a potato masher [a fork would work fine]. Add the dried oregano, dried basil, sugar and stir to combine. At this point, I  added a couple leftover veggies that I wanted to use up [4 slices of leftover grilled zucchini that I chopped and half of a 10 oz. pack of frozen spinach]. 
Let the tomato sauce simmer until the spaghetti squash has cooked. Using tongs, remove each squash half from the stock pot. 

Use a fork to break up the inside of each squash and separate the squash from the skin, it should look like a "bowl" of spaghetti by the time you are done.
Add about a cup of tomato sauce to each squash half [feel free to adjust this amount to the size of your squash and your desired sauciness level]. Sprinkle a tablespoon of torn, fresh basil and 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese over each squash half. Stir to combine the squash, sauce, parm and basil.
Top each squash half with 3 oz of sliced mozzarella.

Broil until the mozzarella begins to brown. Serve with extra parmesan and basil.