Low-Carb and Quick. Who’s Complaining?

Squash is used like pasta to delicious effect in this low-carb Beef Ragù Over Spaghetti Squash. The recipe came compliments of our weekly “Make It Tonight” series from Fine Cooking. Oval shaped and yellow, spaghetti squash can be considered a summer or winter squash and is conveniently available year-round in most grocery stores.

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In the benefits department, spaghetti squash contains a wide range of vitamins and also several minerals that are vital to good health. It has a fair amount of fiber and with only 42 calories and 10 carbs in a 1-cup serving, this vegetable is a safe addition to any diet.

Talking with my younger sister Lolly recently, she told me a humorous story relating to this topic. She admitted cooking what she thought was spaghetti squash several times without ever achieving “spaghetti strands” when she raked a fork through the cooked flesh. Finally, after the third or so time without the desired results, she realized she had been cooking a butternut squash! All ended well when she eventually chose the correct cultivar. Hey, live and learn right?

With a few modifications, I altered the original recipe to fit our tastes. Instead of the ground beef, I used a meat combination of one-third each beef, pork and veal. Another good substitute would be ground turkey.

In Step 5, after draining the fat and adding the crushed tomatoes and basil, I omitted the 1/4 cup water preferring a thicker ragù. And to that end I also included one tablespoon of tomato paste to add substance. (BTW, it’s far more efficient to buy a tube of tomato paste so that when a recipe calls for a small amount, you don’t have to open an entire can.) Finally, for that kick I’m fond of, I incorporated about a half teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes—optional of course!

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Ingredients

  • 1 small (2 1/2-3 lb.) spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • One 15-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1/2-1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

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After the meat, onion and garlic have cooked, add the tomatoes, basil, and tomato paste; stir well and bring to a boil.

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Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes (or longer.)

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Once the squash has cooled enough to handle, rake the squash flesh into strands with a fork.

Directions

  1. Arrange the spaghetti squash in a single layer in the bottom of a large, wide pot. (Don’t worry if the squash halves don’t lie completely flat in the pot.) Add 1/2 inch of water, cover the pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the squash is tender enough to shred when raked with a fork but still somewhat crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the squash to a plate and set aside until cool enough to handle.
  2. While the squash cooks, heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef, the remaining chopped garlic, onion, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper; cook, stirring to break up the meat, until just cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes.
  3. Drain and discard the fat if necessary. Add the tomatoes, basil, and tomato paste; stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and if using, crushed red pepper flakes.
  4.  With a fork, rake the squash flesh into strands, transfer to plates, and season to taste with salt. Ladle the beef ragù over the squash and garnish with the grated Parmigiano. If desired, serve with garlic bread and a side salad.

Adapted from a recipe by Liz Pearson from Fine Cooking

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