I’m not sure if you’re ready for hot food, but I really am. In order to get ready for work after a week of vacation, I needed something hearty but not heavy. Spaghetti squash seemed to fit the bill with some meatballs and mushrooms and onions. It seems I reach over and over again for mushrooms and caramelized onions every time I need comfort food or hearty food — do you have go-to ingredients that help you face the world? Because mine are apparently mushrooms (which Denise hates) and onions. They’re so earthy and grounded.
Spaghetti squash is weird, and while I don’t think it’s actually a substitute for pasta, it is a good vehicle for some thinner sauces. Putting the squash in the pan to soak up the meatball fats and the onion oil means you lose none of the flavors. It’s possible that this dish is even paleo-friendly, but I won’t claim to know the rules behind that diet. If you want a little less fat in the sauce, drain the pan after sauteing the meatballs or scoop up the onions, mushrooms, and meatballs with a slotted spoon and put them on the squash.
This dish will fortify you and make you ready to face the rest of summer.
- 1 medium spaghetti squash football-sized
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion quartered and sliced thin
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt divided into two 1/4t servings
- 1 8 oz. package mushrooms broken into pieces
- 1/2 pound ground beef (I prefer 85/15 mix)
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 1/2 teaspoon basil
- 2 Tablespoons fine bread crumbs or starch-based gluten-free flour
- fresh ground pepper, to taste
- 1 Tablespoon water
- Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Poke a hole in a spaghetti squash and throw it in the oven, on the rack. Bake for an hour. (You can also slice it in half and bake it for 30-45 minutes. I prefer the lazier approach. Learn more from the link in the notes.)
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat (cast iron is best for making great caramelized onion). When it's hot, add the onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir well, to coat all the onion with oil, and then cook, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the meatballs by mixing the beef, pork, oregano, basil, and bread crumbs or starchy gluten-free flour. Because they will be more tender if you work the meat less, I break up the meats first, sprinkle the seasonings over, and then lightly mix before forming ping-pong ball-sized meatballs. I get about 14 meatballs from a pound of meat.
- Your squash is likely done now. Take it out and let it cool. As soon as you can, slice it in half to let it cool more.
- When the onions are beginning to get a pretty caramel brown, push them all to the sides and add the meatballs. You might need to do this in two batches to have enough room to stir.
- When the meatballs are browned on most sides, add the mushrooms, the second 1/4 teaspoon of salt, pepper, and the water. Stir well (but gently -- the meatballs are still delicate) and cover for about 5 minutes. When the mushrooms have started to cook, stir again, and cover for another 5 minutes.
- Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
- Scoop out the seeds and pulp. Then scoop out the squash and stir it in to the skillet. You will be able to see when it's soaked up the sauce, and then it's ready to serve.
If you've never cooked spaghetti squash before, check out this lesson from The Kitchn. You can also check out Denise's Meatball Sub Meatballs recipe, if you like a more substantial meatball. Mine is a streamlined version for a quick meal.