Better than Pasta Roni Spaghetti Squash (Double Recipe Edition)

So for the past like month I have had a spaghetti squash on my counter.  With every intention of making a spaghetti type dish.

Except for the past month I have not once been in the mood for a spaghetti type dish.  Nor have I had the hour to roast one in the oven.

So in the way that most of my food posts typically start – one day I was surfing Pinterest – looking for easy spaghetti squash recipes for my upcoming cooking class.  I came across a recipe called: Better than Pasta Roni Spaghetti Squash.

The best part of this recipe was it finally gave me a quicker way to prepare spaghetti squash.  When you roast it in the oven – it takes about an hour or so.  But this recipe showed me a really good way to microwave it – and it was ready in 10 minutes.

So here is what you need for this recipe.

1 Spaghetti Squash

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3 oz butter

Italian seasoning

Garlic

And here is what you do:

Take your spaghetti squash, cut it in half lengthwise, and scoop out the goopy seed part with a spoon/fingers/fork.

When that is done take a half cup of water and put it in one half of the seeded spaghetti squash, and place the other half of the squash back on (so you have water inside the squash – and you have put the squash back together again).

Now take some plastic wrap and wrap 1-2 layers around the squash to hold it together, place the squash and microwave in a microwave safe bowl/container for 8-10 minutes.

Let the squash cool (a fast way to do this is cut off the plastic wrap and carefully open the squash) – if you leave the squash closed it takes longer to cool, because the steam is still trapped inside.

While the squash cools – combine your butter, parm, and herb, and garlic in a medium sized bowl.

When the squash is cooled enough to hold take a fork, and shave out the squash right into the bowl with the butter/parm/garlic/herbs.

Combine, and serve.  This makes about 4 servings – 1/4 of the entire batch being 1 serving.

Macros: Serves 4 Serving Size: 1/4 of a batch

Calories: 197 Total Fat: 14 g Saturated Fat: 9 g Cholesterol: 39 mg Sodium: 390 mg Potassium: 23.5 mg Total Carbohydrate: 11 g Fiber: 2.5 g Sugars: 4 g Protein: 8 g

So recipe was really really good.  However, it is an excellent example of how something can be low carb – but not necessarily the healthiest meal/side dish.  In terms of calories – it’s not terrible -but a majority of the kcals are coming from the butter.

And the sodium content is not fantastic – but it it isn’t awful either.

If I were using the “stop light system” (green = good/anytime food, yellow = sometimes foods, ok to have a few times per week, and red = special occasion treat food) I would classify this as a “yellow”- dare I say – maybe even red – (9 g of saturated fat!!!!).  BUT only if you’re having it as a side, and only if it is with a meal that is generally healthy.  As you can see – I had this as a side with roasted potatoes, and baked salmon.

IMG_4265[1]

This meal actually turned about to be fat fest between all that butter, and the (healthy) fats from the salmon.

So I got to thinking – since I am not necessarily recommending making this recipe – what are some healthier ways this recipe could be made?

1 Tbsp of Truffle Oil + 1/4 cup parm (or goat cheese) + garlic + Italian seasoning

(Truffle Oil is a splurge, but it.is.so worth it)

1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil + Balsamic Vinegar + zucchini and summer squash

1 Tbsp Sesame Oil + Ginger + Edemame + carrots + sriracha + sesame seeds + rice vinegar

Also since we are talking about spaghetti squash – obviously you can use it to make a spaghetti or pasta dish.  But what to do if you are trying to eat clean/limit the processed foods?

Well it’s hard to find that in a jar.  But not impossible.

Rule number one for buying something in a jar: BE ABLE TO READ AND RECOGNIZE THE INGREDIENTS.

A few brands I have researched and will recommend 1) Enrico’s Traditional Pasta Sauce

2) Trader Joe’s Marinara Sauce – Organic – No Salt Added

I find that both of these have respectable ingredients (i.e. I can easily recognize them), and they don’t have a boatload of sodium.

Based on the “Consumer Reports” Giada’s line of sauces at Target ranks the highest – and the ingredients are clean – BUT the sodium content is significantly higher – so this RD says still proceed with caution.

And if you want to be SUPER clean.  Here is a basic recipe to make your own sauce at home:

2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

6 garlic cloves, chopped/minced

4 larger fresh basil leaves (feel welcomed to add more basil/garlic in order to use less salt)

2 28 oz cans of whole peeled tomatoes with their juice (only ingredients listed should be tomatoes and their juice)

Pinch of sea salt

Black pepper to taste

You can also add onions and mushrooms if you’re so inclined

Heat the olive oil in a pan on medium heat

Add the garlic (and onions) to brown them

Add 2 basil leaves for ~ 2 minutes

Add both cans of tomatoes along with their juices add remaining basil leaves

Turn heat up to high, and bring this to a boil/bubble

Lower heat, and let the sauce simmer for 30-45 minutes

Stir occasionally and crush tomatoes with a wooden spoon

If you are “anti-chunky tomatoes” like me – you can pop this into a blender really quick when you’re done and puree the sauce, or puree the canned tomatoes before putting it in the saucepan.  I have been told on many occasions how weird I am for liking the taste/flavor tomatoes give – but hating “chunks” of tomatoes.

I mean the basics for a simple tomato sauce will be tomatoes, basil, garlic, pepper, olive oil, and yes maybe a dash of salt.  You can play with different consistencies, flavors, and additions (mushrooms, meat, onions etc) you like.

At the end of the day working with spaghetti squash is a great way to

1) Slash out some refined carbs (choosing this over pasta)

2) Incorporate another serving of veggies/fiber

3) Slash calories on a recipe (except in my case – because I added so much butter)

Spaghetti squash is a low maintenance veggie.  You will get small amounts of a wide variety of vitamins & minerals  (Vitamin A, C, & B-6, potassium, calcium, and magnesium).  Spaghetti squash is has small amounts of a lot of stuff, so even though it is not necessarily a “powerhouse of vitamin c” or one specific thing – it is still a much more nutritious option than pasta.

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