Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I have never claimed to have good time-management skills. In fact, mine are downright atrocious. I'm a mess, known for such behaviors as staying up until 3 am to finish papers for school that were known about for months, forgetting for days on end to drop off dry cleaning, and returning unfortunately large or small items of clothing on the literal last possible date for return. It's pathetic, really. My SH is the absolute opposite of a mess, thank goodness. We were meant to be.

Needless to say, despite my love of cooking and preparing delicious meals for us, the fact that it's tremendously difficult for me to get things done often prevents me from branching out much beyond beans and rice. That and my inexplicably STRESSFUL job, which I shall not speak of.

On one particularly trying and looooong afternoon, I was rushing into my beloved local Trader Joe's when my eyes lit upon the colorful and rather haphazard pile of autumn squash, conveniently located near the front door. Inevitably placed there to honor the plethora of butternut squash-themed recipes that practically choke every issue of fall food magazines, I was immediately struck by the slightly scarred, bright yellow spaghetti squash, remembering my EXTREMELY successful first experience with the very aptly named gourd.

I came across a recipe for spaghetti squash and meatballs in an old issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray. Not surprisingly, I own every issue (save the pilot, original issue), and my collection has a prominent place in a wicker basket next to my bookshelf of cookbooks. I've always enjoyed squash, but there is something supremely satisfying about the unique qualities of spaghetti squash. Once cooked, with the pulpy, seedy section removed, it is possible to scrape the warm, sunny center with a fork, resulting in thin, delicate, and indeed, spaghetti-like strands. Tossed with a bit of butter and topped with delectable, spicy sausage meatballs, it makes for a warm, comforting, and yes, autumnal meal.

It was the simplicity of the recipe that drew my attention on my dash through the store. All I needed to pick up for dinner was the hefty squash and a package of spicy sausage. Granted, with the inclusion of sausage and butter, it's not the healthiest dish on the planet, but it was perfect at the end of an exhausting day. We ate ravenously, twirling golden strands of squash around our forks and devouring every last spicy bit of sausage. Not bad at all, for a last minute meal. Not bad at all!

Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs, adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray, October 2006

1 large spaghetti squash (about 4 pounds), halved lengthwise and seeded (2 notes here: My squash was exceptionally large, requiring me to cook it a bit longer. Be very careful when halving the squash-it can be unwieldy and dangerous!)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces (I cut down on the butter)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound uncooked chicken or turkey sausage, casings removed (I have to admit it-I used pork!)
3/4 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
8 basil leaves, torn (I neglected to put in the basil, although I'm sure it would be even more delicious with it!)

1. Place the squash, cut side up, on a damp paper towel in a microwaveable dish. Microwave on high until tender, about 15 minutes. Using a fork, scrape the strands of squash into a microwaveable bowl and toss with the butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
2. Meanwhile, combine the sausage with the bread crumbs and form into 1-inch meatballs. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat (I didn't use any oil, due to the high fat content of the sausage). Add the meatballs and cook, stirring, until browned, about 6 minutes. Cover and cook over low heat until cooked through, about 3 minutes more.
3. Reheat the shredded squash in the microwave and top with the meatballs, cheese, and basil.

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