Dec 022010
 

It happens every year.  The temperature drops into the 40’s, I’m starting to see my breath in the air on my walk to work, and I’m fighting the transition from my wool coat to my giant puffy coat to delay my inevitable metamorphisis into the Michelin Man.  And right around this time, I start craving italian food.  Warm, tomatoey, comforting, and hearty.  The problem with Italian though, is that it often is accompanied by a mountain of pasta or a puddle of oil or a layer of cheese.  My goal with this recipe was to make a quick, easy, lighter Italian meal that would still fulfill my craving.  Think that looks like pasta under that ratatouille? Think again.




First lets talk sauce, the key to any good italian meal.  The beauty of ratatouille, the sauce not the mouse, is that you can throw in just about any vegetables you have/like, cook them down, and you’re done.  I used traditional veggies like mushrooms, zucchini, red pepper, and eggplant.  Instead of using real tomatoes here, I made the process a little quicker and easier by adding my favorite store bought tomato sauce (which is now Trader Joe’s brand arrabiata sauce because it’s so tasty and less than $3 a jar!). 
Now for what goes under that delicious sauce.  Instead of pasta, I used spaghetti squash.  Now this was my first time using spaghetti squash so i really wasn’t sure what to expect.  I was kind of picturing having to shred zucchini into spaghetti like strands.  No no no.  After some investigation, I got this big oval spaghetti squash, cut it in half (the long way), scooped out the seeds, and baked it in the oven for about an hour.  When I removed the squash and let it cool, I was shocked to find that just by scraping the flesh with a fork, long spaghetti like strands came out.  It’s a produce miracle.   
Now a little disclaimer on this stuff.  I was obsessed with it…so tasty, and it had a little bit of crunch which I loved.  That being said, I wouldn’t say this is going to fool anyone into thinking it’s pasta.  I wouldn’t show up to my boyfriend’s Italian grandparents house on Sunday (pasta night, of course) and say, hey guys, this time we’re going to use squash instead of pasta.  This stuff will not replace pasta, but hopefully it can be an addition to your diet and substitution to make every once in a while when you’re looking for a lighter dish.

Nutritional Highlights: the stats….
                               Spaghetti Squash      vs        Spaghetti
Calories in 1 cup               42                                   221
Fiber                                 2                                    2.5
Carbs                               10                                    43
Now it may not taste exactly the same as pasta, but when you look at these numbers it’d be hard to choose the pasta.  Plus, the squash has added nutrients like beta carotene, also is known as vitamin A. Vitamin A helps to boost the immune system and maintain healthy eye function. Spaghetti squash also contains significant amounts of niacin, vitamin B6, potassium, manganese, and vitamin C.  Topped with this healthy ratatouille and a little basil and parm (hey, can’t have “pasta” without some parm), and you have an incredibly healthy and satisfying meal. 
And this is just one example of what you can do with spaghetti squash! It’s the perfect vehicle for any sauce and toppings you want to try!
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Addendum:  Remember when I posted this without a recipe?  Well I’m sorrrrrrry and here it is!

Cooking Spaghetti Squash:

Method – Baking





If baking whole squash, then pierce the flesh all over with a fork. Bake for 1 hour in a 375F oven. Once tender, cool for few minutes till you can handle it, chop it into half, scoop out the seeds and prepare just as above.
If baking already cleaned and chopped pieces, place them rind side up and bake for 20-30 minutes (or until tender) in 375F oven.
Method – Microwave
You can cook the whole squash in a microwave. But make sure you pierce it with a fork to avoid it bursting inside the m/w. Placing smaller pieces is a better bet.
Cut squash in half lengthwise; remove seeds. Place squash cut sides down on a microwave safe bowl. Cover it with a plastic wrap leaving little to create a steam vent. Cook for about 7-8 minutes (depends on m/w power and side of the squash). If you do not have carousel, then turn the dish every 3 minutes for even cooking.


My Ratatouille Recipe


Ingredients:

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small box white or baby portabello (cremini) mushrooms
  • 1 eggplant
  • 1-2 bell peppers (diced)
  • 1-2 zucchini, halved and sliced
  • 1/2 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
  • Other veggie options: onion, yellow squash, anything you have!

Directions:  In large skillet, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium/high heat.  Add the minced garlic cloves and stir for 30 seconds.  Then add your veggie groups one at a time in order of cooking time (first red peppers, then zucchini, then eggplant, then mushrooms).  Wait a few minutes before adding the next group.  You can also add them at the same time but then you’ll end up with crunchy peppers and mushy eggplant and mushrooms. Once veggies are cooked, add the pasta sauce and stir until it’s heated through. 


Serve over spaghetti squash and garnish with parmesan and fresh basil.  Enjoy!











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