Monday, January 21, 2013

0 Recipe #333: Spaghetti Squash & Spicy Meatballs

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This was last night's dinner. I'm very happy with the way this recipe turned out. The meatballs and tomato sauce turned out REALLY well. Very flavorful, with just the right amount of heat. Now THAT'S a spicy meat-a-ball! :)

Erik really liked the meatballs and the sauce too, which is always a good sign. :) He's not just a primary taste-tester; he's also got a great eye, and often helps me pick out the recipe photos that make the cut for The Athlete's Cookbook book series. (He's a photographer in his own right.)

This recipe, in its Paleo version, will be published in the upcoming book, Paleo Fitness, by Darryl Edwards, Brett Stewart, and Jason Warner (with recipes and meal plan by moi). This book is currently available for pre-order at and Barnes and Noble. :)

Spaghetti Squash & Spicy Meatballs

3 lbs. spaghetti squash, halved crosswise with a sharp chef's knife (about 1 medium-sized squash)

1/2 lb. lean ground turkey
1/2 lb. lean ground beef
1/4 c. fresh spinach, finely minced and densely packed
2 eggs
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt (leave out if you're Paleo)
1/2 tsp. dried basil leaves
2 Tbsp. fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely minced and densely packed
1/2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper

Tomato Sauce: (Makes 32 oz. sauce)
1 c. yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 Tbsp. garlic, peeled and finely minced (about 4 large cloves)
4 c. vine-ripened tomatoes, diced (about 3 large tomatoes)
2 c. water (or more if necessary) (only use 1 c. if you're doing the Paleo version of this recipe)
1/4 c. tomato paste (leave out if you're strict Paleo)
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt (leave out if you're Paleo)
1/4 c. fresh basil, plus more for garnish, minced and densely packed
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano, roughly chopped and densely packed
1 Tbsp. fresh marjoram, finely minced and densely packed
2 Tbsp. fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely minced and densely packed

Directions: Preheat oven to 375°F. Next, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, and then carefully place halved squash into the pot, using a sturdy pair of tongs, and boil for 20-25 minutes, or until tender. Let the squash cool for at least 10 minutes before handling. Then, using a large spoon, scoop out the pulp and seeds and discard.* Separate the spaghetti squash strands with a fork, scraping with the grain of the noodles (crosswise). Use the same spoon you just used to scrape out all of the strands to remove the spaghetti squash strands en masse. Once you've loosened some of the strands, it'll be easier to insert your spoon closer to the rind and excavate the remainder. :) If you've cooked the squash for long enough, this should be relatively easy to do. Divide up the squash into four portions and place into bowls (or onto plates).

Meanwhile, place all of the meatball ingredients into a large bowl and thoroughly mix together using a spatula or fork. Using a cookie dough scoop (or small ice cream scoop), form bite-sized meatballs and place as many as will fit into a large heat-proof skillet, cooking them in multiple batches just long enough for the meatballs to cook through. (No extra oil is needed as rendered fat from meat will provide adequate liquid fat to brown meatballs and keep them from burning. If needed, you can always add a bit of water during cooking.) Place meatballs into oven and bake them for 15 minutes total, or until golden brown. Then transfer skillet from the oven to the stovetop, and sear them on high heat for an additional 5 minutes, browning the meatballs on all sides. Remove from heat, drain fat, and let cool for several minutes. Using a slotted spoon, divide meatballs into equal portions and place on top of each plate/bowl of squash. Set aside.

Next, make tomato sauce: In a medium-sized pot, add onions, garlic, vine-ripened tomatoes, and water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes (or only 10 minutes if you're making the Paleo version with half the water), stirring frequently. (If mixture cooks down too quickly, reduce heat a bit and/or add more water as necessary.) Add tomato paste, season with salt and pepper, and then stir to break up paste and fully incorporate. (Leave out salt and tomato paste if you're Paleo.) Add all of the fresh herbs (basil, oregano, marjoram, and parsley) and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and then pour over meatballs and squash. Garnish with additional basil, if desired. Serve hot.

Yield: 4 servings.

Chef's Notes: *Preparing the spaghetti squash: When slicing the squash, be sure to use a sharp chef's knife. It can make all the difference. In my experience, it's also easier to slice the squash first, then cook it, and then remove the pulp and seeds. The squash will be softer after cooking and thus easier to scoop this way.

I know that many recipes call for spaghetti squash to be sliced lengthwise, but frankly, when you slice them crosswise, the halves fit into the pot a lot better. Plus, it's easier to scoop out the pulp, seeds, and spaghetti squash "noodles" that way.

Substitutions: Zucchini "noodles" would also make a good option for those who don't want to bother with all the scraping. :)

Alternate Preparations: If you like a smoother tomato sauce, you can always purée it in the blender first before pouring it over the meatballs. If you do this, be sure to let the sauce cool first before adding it to the blender. This way, you'll avoid getting attacked by hot splurts of sauce. ;)

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