Spaghetti Squash and Make-It-Your-Own Sauce

Hello Tablers!  My apologies for being MIA this past week, between my day job, general life, and getting lasers shot in my eye, it’s been a pretty busy time around here.  All those time constraints have led to me eating pretty poorly, a lot of breads, a lot of meats, and not a lot of veggies.  For shame!

So this week I’m eating healthier, lighter, and getting back in the swing of things! It’s Springtime, isn’t that what we should all be doing anyway?

We’re going to start this week with a vegetable I get confused by: Spaghetti Squash.

People love it, and there is some that I’ve had that is delicious, but every time I have made it at home it turns out either undercooked or squishy, or not that tasty.  There was a big pile of them staring me in the face at the market though, and I will not be deterred. If it can replace pasta every now and then and still give me the satisfaction, I’m all in.

Now, let’s talk tomato sauce. Is there any sauce that is more forgiving than a tomato sauce? I call this Make-It-Your-Own tomato sauce, because you can pretty much put in anything you might think will work. You can use different meats, different vegetables, different spices, make it your own! Of course you can serve it with regular pasta too!

Let’s start with the squash.

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Look at that beauty. So yellow!  So…oval.  Ok well it’s a pretty yellow at least.

First thing you do is cut that baby in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds.

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A blank canvas, ready for seasoning!

Spaghetti squash is pretty tasteless, which is bad if you want to eat it on its own, but great if you want to cover it with something delicious. Add some salt, pepper, and drizzle some olive oil on both halves, and then put them face down on a baking sheet. Cover with foil.

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Peek-a-boo

Throw it in the oven for 30 minutes to an hour, checking after 30 minutes. You know it’s done when a knife slides into it easily.

Now while that’s cooking let’s talk about the sauce. Looking in my fridge, I had some Italian turkey sausage, some onions, and sweet peppers, so that’s what I used. But hey, you have some ground beef? Ground turkey? Chicken Sausage? Spinach? Broccoli? Use it!  Whatever you feel like.

First cook the onions for a few minutes, then add your protein, in this case my delicious spicy turkey sausage.

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After the turkey sausage is browned, add in the rest of the veggies, in this case the chopped sweet peppers I had. (If you’re using spinach or some other leafy green, don’t add it now, add it near the end).

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Action shot!

Then add a can of whole tomatoes, crushing them with your hand as they go in, to really get all the juices out.

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This is the point where you open up your spice cabinet and see what’s happening in there. In my kitchen I had some dried oregano, dried basil, garlic salt, red chili flakes, and cumin (why not?), so I put some of each in there, gave it all a stir, put a lid on it and let it cook until the squash was done. Oh also add some salt and pepper of course.

Speaking of, here’s the squash when it’s done:

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Perfect. Now take a fork and carefully scrape the strands apart, basically moving from the skin side to the middle, like this:

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MAGIC.

Let’s check the sauce too.  Sometimes you’ll have to mash the tomatoes up a little more with your spoon.

 

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And when you add the two together, with a little parmesan, of course…

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A satisfying, and healthy meal, that’s full of flavor!  And it even looks like spaghetti! The miracle of nature.

SPAGHETTI SQUASH:

Ingredients:

1 2-3 pound spaghetti squash
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Cut squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds.

3. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

4. Place cut side down on a baking sheet, cover the sheet with foil.

5. Place in oven for 30 minutes to 1 hour.  Check after 30 minutes. It’s done when a knife can slide into it easily.

6. Remove from oven and let cook for 5 minutes.

7. With a fork, gently scrape the squash away from the skin into strings. Place into a bowl.

8. Add your favorite topping and enjoy!

MAKE-IT-YOUR-OWN TOMATO SAUCE

Ingredients:

1 28oz can whole tomatoes

1/2 pound protein (sausage, ground beef, turkey, etc).

1 onion

Vegetables (peppers, broccoli, asparagus, zuchinni, whatever you like)

Spices.

Instructions:

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pot or deep pan over medium heat.

2. Add onion and cook for 4-5 minutes until just starting to brown.

3. Add your protein, and cook until browned.

4. Add your sturdy vegetables and cook 3 minutes.

5. Add tomatoes and liquid to the pot, crushing with your hand as you go.

6. Add spices (basil, oregano, garlic, fennel, chili, whatever else you might have in your cabinet!) and seasoning.

7. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer 20-30 minutes.

8. Crush tomatoes a little more with your spoon.  Salt and pepper to taste.

8*. If you have leafy greens, this is where you should put them in and cook a few minutes longer until they’re just wilted.

9. Serve over spaghetti squash, or regular pasta, with lots of parmesan cheese.

 

 

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Tomatoes and Butter and Bucatini Oh My!

I was super lazy this weekend. My boyfriend was out of town, so it was just me and the dogs and no scheduled events, which was so nice. By the time Sunday rolled around I really didn’t want to make anything too fancy, because it was just me.  I had some bucatini I’ve been wanting to use, because I love bucatini, so I asked the internets (or more accurately, I said to my phone “Ok Google, find me a simple recipe for bucatini), and found probably the easiest pasta I’ve made to date, short of pouring sauce out of a jar.

Remember when I talked about a recipe that was sure to get you a man?  Cancel that thought.  This is the one that will land you a man.

It’s three simple steps.

1. Put the ingredients in a dish and bake.

In a baking dish you add the following: canned tomatoes, butter, a couple anchovies, a lot of garlic, red pepper, salt and pepper.  I added oregano because I’m rebellious.

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2. When it’s done baking, take it out, and mash it all up with a potato masher.

At this point everything will be so soft that it will all melt together. Also, as I learned, be prepared for a splatter filled oven.

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3. Toss with cooked bucatini, or really any pasta. Top with parmesan, and if you want, some crispy pancetta. Place in bowl.

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It is so amazingly good for the amount of effort you put into it.  Honestly, I can barely look at this picture without wanting more of it.  Unfortunately there’s none left…cuz…well…you know…I mean it’s really good.

The recipe is at Bon Appetit,

A Childhood Favorite

After you turn 35, talking about your childhood suddenly sounds so…old.  I was going to start this by writing “When I was young…” and then stopped and wrote “Growing up…” and stopped again.  Finally I tried “When I was a kid…” and gave up because there was no way I was going to avoid sounding like my father, who tells us stories of when he was a kid and had to walk 10 miles, barefoot, in the snow (even though he grew up where there was no snow).

When I was growing up (dammit!) I learned to cook by watching my mother in the kitchen. She was a busy woman, and still is, actually. I think she has a more active social life than I do.

During those busy days, she’d make some quick dinners, one of which became my favorite comfort food as I got older.  It’s a simple meal: pan fried cube steak, stir-fried broccoli, and Noodle Pasta Roni.  Easy, delicious, and always reminds me of home.

There’s really not much you can do to improve upon that perfect dish (I mean, honestly, Pasta Roni makes everything better, am I right?) But I figured I’d try anyway.  But before I tried that, I had to make the original meal, because, really any excuse for it is fine with me.

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Look at that.  The sear of the cube steak.  The crunch of that broccoli.  The creaminess of that pasta from a box.  *swoon*

Now if I were going to improve upon this slice of heaven, I’d obviously start with the steak.  A nice piece of grass-fed top sirloin is a great start.

I can’t stress how important it is to salt your meat.  Changes everything.

Next the broccoli could use something special.  If you’ve never roasted broccoli, follow Ina Garten’s recipe because it will change every feeling you have about broccoli.  If you hate broccoli, you will love this.  If you love broccoli, you will love it more.  You’ll want to eat it every day.

Olive oil + salt + pepper + heat = OMG

I pan-roasted the steak, finished it with some sriracha (because I am an adult), and cooked some pasta and tossed it with butter, oregano, and some parmesan. The result was wonderous:

Simple, probably healthier, and it still reminds me of home.  Now, let’s get a better look at that broccoli.

Delicious. And you can tell it’s the grown up version because I lit a very elegant bunny rabbit candle…that only grown ups can have.

What’s a comfort food that reminds you of when you were a kid (dammit!)?

The Best Vodka Sauce I’ve Ever Made

If you know me, then chances are you know that Ina Garten is my Inner Food Goddess.   Really, my Outer Food Goddess too, I talk about her at least once a day.  That’s normal, right?  She’s just everything. Her food is amazing, simple, and just makes you feel good about life.  I’m sure if they were invited to her Hamptons barn, even Emily Thorne and Victoria Grayson could reconcile their differences (#REVENGE).

On her show, and in her book, Foolproof, Ina gave us the recipe for Penne alla Vecchia Bettola from Nick and Toni’s in East Hampton, and life has never been the same.  This sauce has such an amazing flavor that it’s mind boggling how little time you actually spend cooking it.  It’s a go-to dish when I have friends over, because it always gets rave reviews (and if they don’t rave, they are obviously blacklisted for poor taste).

You start with some onions and garlic, naturally.  Sauté them up.

IMG_6531Add in some chili flakes and dried oregano.  Keep sautéing.

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IMG_6547Then you get to add in a full cup of vodka!  Be sure to save the extra for the cocktails.

IMG_6542Next comes the tomatoes.  Two cans of whole tomatoes get crushed into the reduced vodka/onion/garlic mix.

IMG_6559You toss that all in the oven for a good hour and a half.  Then you blend it up, add some heavy cream and oregano, parmesan, salt and pepper of course, and you get something creamy and delicious that looks like this:

IMG_6572Finally, toss it with some penne, sprinkle fresh oregano on top and spend ten minutes taking the perfect picture and you have the most amazing pasta dish you’ll ever have.*

IMG_6577How can you not want to just dive in to this?

Honestly, do yourself a favor and try it at home.  Serve it to everyone you know.  Including me.  I’ll be over at 7.

* This may be a dramatic statement, but it’s pretty damn good.  

FULL RECIPE (From Food Network)