The farm markets are alive with autumnal colors as the winter squashes make their appearance. Many, such as butternut, acorn, pumpkin and delicata, are known for their dense, sweet flesh and are delicious when roasted, added to soups or tossed in a seasonal salad.
One of our favorites is spaghetti squash. It’s an oddity amongst the winter squashes as it has a very neutral flavor and, when it’s cooked, its flesh becomes little strands that resemble spaghetti. It’s so odd that here at home we refer to it as “The Vegetable.” It can be baked, steamed or microwaved and served with butter or used as a substitute for pasta with traditional sauces. I like to steam it in the microwave, scoop out the flesh and combine it with a spicy sausage. It only takes about a half an hour from start-to-finish, so it’s a great meal for busy weekday nights. As you probably guessed from my comment above, we jokingly call the recipe “Stuffed Vegetable.”
You’ll need to use a sturdy sharp knife to cut the uncooked spaghetti squash in half but, once it’s cooked, the shell remains strong but pliable making it a good “boat” in which to serve the dish and an easy cleanup. Although the seeds can be roasted like pumpkin seeds, I usually just discard them with the little bit of the stringy flesh attached.
STUFFED SPAGHETTI SQUASH
1 spaghetti squash
Extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 ½ cups chopped kale (optional)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1 pound ground sausage meat
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (or panko)
½ cup grated parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese
2 eggs, beaten
Additional cheese (such as feta) for topping
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Discard the seeds. Place the squash halves cut-side-down in ½ inch of water and steam in a microwave for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool a bit which will make it easier to handle.
Scoop out the squash flesh, reserving the shells. I find it’s easiest to scoop out using a salad fork or a serrated grapefruit spoon. You’ll see that the flesh has a texture and appearance like short strands of spaghetti. Place the squash into a large bowl.
In a medium pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Sauté the onion until soft. If you’re adding kale, sauté it along with the onion until soft. Add the fennel and herbs. Transfer the onion to the bowl with the squash.
Adding a little more oil if necessary, sauté the sausage meat until well-browned and cooked through, breaking up any large pieces with a wooden spoon. Place the sausage in the bowl with the squash and onions; stir to combine.
Stir in the breadcrumbs, beaten eggs and parmesan.
Place the spaghetti squash shells in a medium baking dish (you can use the same dish you used to steam the squash). Put half of the squash-sausage mixture into each shell. If you feel that you’re overstuffing a shell, you can put any extra stuffing into a 1-quart baking dish and bake it, saving the leftovers for another meal. Spaghetti squash is surprisingly filling – I generally stuff each half even with the top of the shell and keep the extra stuffing for another meal.
Top the squash shells with a little crumbled feta and bake at 375 degrees, uncovered, for 20 minutes.