Spaghetti Squash With Slow-Cooked Bolognaise Sauce
Spaghetti was one of my favourite meals as a child. I used to love coming home to a house smelling like the hearty sauce. We were allowed to request a special birthday dinner when we were growing up, and having a summer birthday I wouldn't ask for burgers or ribs, or anything that involved the BBQ. I wouldn't even ask for pizza - my request would always be spaghetti. Even though I've grown up a bit since then, mom's spaghetti sauce is still a go-to comfort food for me. This slow-cooked sauce is a twist on the family recipe I grew up with and loved. I've added veggies to this version, since you can never have too many of those! The best part about a slow cooked sauce is that you can throw everything in, walk away, and a delicious dinner is waiting for you at the end of the day! (Ok... this recipe isn't quite that easy, but it's close.)
I also used to love having a heaping plate of pasta, but back then I was running around between various sports and needed all that energy. Spaghetti Squash makes an excellent sub for starch-heavy pasta and a lighter evening meal than pasta. It seems like many people don't use spaghetti squash because they're not sure what to do with it or how to cook it, but it's actually really easy to do. Using squash in this recipe lightens up the meal, plus it gives you some extra veggies and nutrition! I've really grown to love this as a substitute for regular pasta noodles. The squash I used for this recipe was home-grown by my partner's parents, and it was absolutely delicious! I don't think I've ever tasted a squash as sweet. Buy it locally and seasonally, and if it's not squash season use this sauce on regular pasta or any other kind of pasta you like. When it's not squash season I usually go for pasta mixed 50/50 with spirallized zuchinni noodles.
- 1 medium-large spaghetti squash
- 1 lb extra lean ground beef
- 1/2 white onion
- 2-3 cloves fresh garlic
- 1 tsp chili flakes (more if you like it spicier)
- 1-2 tsp italian seasoning
- 1 x 28oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 x 23 oz can tomato sauce
- 1 x 13 oz can tomato paste
- 1 small zucchini. (~ 1 cup finely chopped)
- 2 bell peppers (red, orange or yellow) or 4-5 mini bell peppers. (~ 1 cup finely chopped)
- 6-8 crimini mushrooms (~ 1 cup finely chopped)
- Optional: 1/2 cup lentils (to boost the fiber!)
- 1 tsp thyme
- salt and pepper to taste
- Parmesan Cheese or grated cheese for garnish
- 1 bunch fresh Basil (optional, for garnish)
For the sauce:
- Mince the onion and press the garlic. Over medium-high heat, cook the ground beef, onion, garlic, chili flakes and italian seasoning mix in a large skillet until beef is just browned, breaking the beef into pieces as it cooks.
- While the beef mixture is cooking, finely chop the onions, zucchini and peppers.
- Put the cans of diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste into the pot of your slow cooker and turn on low or high (low if you're leaving it all day, high if you want it to cook in 3-4 hours).
- Add the minced veggies to the crock pot.
- When the beef is browned add the beef mixture to the crock pot.
- Add the thyme and cinnamon, and a sprinkle of pepper and give the sauce a stir. Cover and let it simmer away!
- You'll likely have leftover sauce - portion it into freezer-safe containers and keep it frozen for up to 6 months.
For the Spaghetti squash:
- About an hour before dinner time, turn your oven on to preheat at 375F.
- Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise using a very sharp knife.
- Scoop out the seeds of the squash carefully with a spoon.
- Turn the halves of the squash face down in a large baking dish (I like this one) and fill the dish with about 1" of water (just enough to steam the squash without drying up)
- When the oven is up to heat pop the squash in and bake for 30-45 minutes. Cooking time will depend on the size of the squash and your oven.
- Pull the squash out - you'll know it's done when you can easily poke a fork through the flesh and when the flesh is soft and breaks into spaghetti-like strands when you run a fork lengthwise down the inside. Check out this guide to making the perfect spaghetti squash from Chew The World for more tips!
- To create spaghetti squash noodles, run a fork gently along the flesh of the squash. It will separate into 'noodles'. Scoop the noodles right onto plates, top with the sauce, and serve right away!
Make it Vegan: Use split red lentils or tofu instead of the beef. Sautee the tofu as you would beef, or throw 1/2 cup of dry lentils right into the slow-cooker, but still sauté the onions and garlic with the chile flakes in a bit of oil.
Make it lactose-free: skip the cheese on top
Nutrition info based on 1.5 cups spaghetti squash, ~ 1 cup of sauce, 2 Tbsp parmesan cheese and fresh basil to garnish
Highlights and swaps:
- For a leaner version, sub ground turkey breast for the ground beef. I often make this substitution in recipes, and it doesn't sacrifice much flavour.
- If you're looking to boost the iron in your diet, beef really is one of the best sources out there, so fitting some extra lean ground beef into your regular routine might be a good idea.
- The balance of protein, fiber, and fat combined with the slower-burning carbs in the spaghetti squash should leave you feeling quite satisfied.
- Round out this meal with a leafy green salad.
- This sauce is really flexible - add or substitute any other types of veggies you have in the fridge to use them up!