I’ve been craving Italian flavors lately. I blame the four basil plants we just planted in our garden. Anytime I go out there, I pluck a little leaf and roll it between my fingers, taking in the fresh, sweet and somehow savory scent of the herb for hours afterward. My guess is that has cued some craving for hearty tomato sauces, creamy pasta, and meals heavily seasoned with oregano and topped with melted parmesan…
But I cannot satisfy those cravings fully without ballooning like Aunt Marge in the opening chapters of Harry Potter The Prisoner of Azkaban. So to find balance, I ran to the same ingredient I always do to replace some sinful carb-based meal… Spaghetti squash.
I only began cooking with spaghetti squash about two years ago, and have enjoyed it in mediterranean, southwestern, and pulled pork concoctions. I took my time replacing my beloved pasta with it completely, but finally bit the bullet with this – and I loved it.
Even the boy, who cringes at any reference to squash, loved this. I wanted a hearty tomato sauce with the decadent taste of Italian sausage, but knew if I put that on top of a pile of spaghetti I’d be in for a six-hour nap. The spaghetti squash was the perfect balance, happily soaking up all of the tomato juices and fragrant flavors I had been craving.
Because my garden isn’t filled with tomatoes yet and I wanted to make this meal quickly, I used a jar of my favorite marinara fresh from the pantry. I love sprucing it up with a base of sauteed onions and garlic – an addition of savory background music to a symphony of powerful flavors. I added a pound of Italian sausage – full of fat and taste – cooked it down, and then let it simmer with the jar of sauce for a good 10 minutes.
From there, I simply layered freshly baked spaghetti squash with the sausage and marinara mixture, topped heavily with freshly grated parmesan. Bake that beauty for just 15 minutes, then top it with freshly cut strips of basil.
We happily munched on servings by the bowl over the course of a few days, left satisfied with the full flavors of an Italian casserole, but without the self-hate. It’s a winner, friends.
- 1 large spaghetti squash
- 1 lb Italian sausage
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 24 oz favorite marinara
- 4 basil leaves
- Salt and pepper
- Parmesan for sprinkling
- To cook the spaghetti squash, take a large, sharp knife and halve the squash lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and discard. Brush the inside of the squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake flesh side up on a baking sheet at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 50 – 60 minutes, until the flesh is tender.
- In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the sausage and cook through, crumbling as you cook.
- Pour the marinara in and mix. Bring to a boil and then down to a simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Once the squash is cool, scrape into a baking dish and spread evenly. Spread the sausage and marinara on top. Sprinkle with fresh parmesan.
- Bake for about 15 minutes in an oven heated at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Once done, sprinkle with freshly chopped basil leaves. Serve warm.