I think I may have mentioned in one of my earlier blog posts, maybe the one about mashed cauliflower, that my family and I are trying to find ways to eat more vegetables with our meals. Ideally, I’m looking for methods that don’t involve gagging while eating or holding our noses just to choke veggies down.
So when I saw some recipes online for a baked spaghetti squash lasagna dish, that actually looked pretty appetizing, I was pretty excited! I was even excited afterwards, as this faux lasagna dish turned out even better than I had hoped, and even the kids went back for seconds!
As far as most recipes go, this one is pretty simple to sift through and make sure that each of the ingredients I choose to use is a wise choice and has some rationale for being included as there are only four ingredients, if I don’t include the salt and pepper.
As we have made a concerted effort to increase vegetable consumption, and at the same time lower our refined starch consumption, swapping out spaghetti squash for store bought pasta is pretty much a no-brainer and straight forward. If only they tasted the same! I’ve never been a squash eater, and can’t say that even today the thought of squash fills me with any kind of excitement. It doesn’t.
But I’ve found that if you cover it with enough butter, or sauce, it’s actually pretty decent. With this recipe, the squash texture that I was so scared of, super soft and nasty, wasn’t there at all, and this dish actually has a pretty decent mouth feel, unlike the squash I remember from my childhood (sorry mom)!
So once I decided to use the spaghetti squash as the base, because that certainly counts towards my daily goal of vegetable intake, I had to decide between organic and conventional squash. In the end I’ve decided it really doesn’t matter. I’ve checked the EWG’s list of the dirtiest foods, that really should be purchased organically, and squash isn’t on the list. If organic is available, and not very much more expensive, then I’ll go that route, just to avoid excess pesticide exposure, but I won’t skip the purchase if all I can find is conventionally grown squash.
Sausage has gotten harder to find since I became more concerned with my eating habits. I don’t know why, but it’s pretty hard to find a decent Italian ground sausage that isn’t made from commercial farming operations (yuck) or contains canola oil, another no-no for me. But on occasion, I have spotted humanely raised pork sausage from Niman Ranch or other like producers when I visit Whole Foods. And if I’m really lucky, I can find a local producer at a farmer’s market on the weekend who makes a sausage that I can feel good about feeding to my family.
Finding a decent tomato sauce for my spaghetti squash lasagna is actually pretty simple, as long as you don’t mind reading labels. Just plan on spending a few minutes in the tomato sauce section of your grocery store and peruse the label, put back the jars that contain the ingredients you object to, get picky and wait until you find just the right one with only the best list of ingredients.
And then there was cheese… should I get a block of fresh cheese for each recipe? Or get the pre-shredded cheese in a bag? The pre-shredded cheese is so convenient, isn’t it? But it always contains that cellulose ingredient, to make sure the shreds don’t stick together in the bag I think. That cellulose that’s always on the label? That’s basically wood pulp. I can’t say that really excites me.
But then again, there are bigger fish to fry. When the cellulose in the shredded cheese I buy is the biggest mistake I make when buying and eating food, then I’ll probably be consuming a pretty clean and awesome diet. I’m not there yet. So again, when I’m exited by the idea of shredding fresh cheese, or have extra time or helping children, then I’ll likely buy the hunk of fresh cheese and grate it myself. And when I find myself in a hurry, I’m sure I’ll reach for the shredded cheese, cross my fingers and hope that that cellulose passes right on through my system with no ill effects.
2 large spaghetti squashes, or 3-4 smaller ones
2 lbs ground sausage
1 jar tomato sauce
Shredded mozzarella cheese, to taste (I usually use around 4-5 ounces)
salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
- Cut each spaghetti squash in half, length-wise, brush with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and place into oven for an hour and a half
- While squash are cooking, brown sausage in a skillet and break into small pieces
- When squash are done, remove from oven and let cool at least 10-15 minutes
- Using a fork, or your fingers, pull the spaghetti squash out of its skin and pile into a bowl lined with a cheese cloth or thin flour towel
- Over the sink, use the cheese cloth to squeeze as much water as you can from the squash, the squash will look like a ball, but it will break back out into the spaghetti strands you are expecting
- Add the sausage to the squash in a mixing bowl, add a few spoons of the Ricotta and just a bit of the tomato sauce, and mix well
- Pour mixture into an oven-proof dish, and add a few more dollops of Ricotta on top. Spread the remainder of the tomato sauce on top as well, then cover with the shredded mozzarella
- Bake in the pre-heated oven until the cheese turns lightly brown and bubbly and looks like it would be delicious, around 45 minutes for my family