Spaghetti squash is kind of the best of both worlds. You get the illusion of pasta with only 1/4 the calories, not to mention the extra vitamins and minerals. While it takes a little longer to make than regular pasta, it's incredibly easy to prepare; all you have to do is cut it in half and stick it in the oven, and then - magically - the long, stringy pieces practically fall onto your plate in a twirled pile when it comes out of the oven about 40 minutes later.
But I can't take credit for the idea to make spaghetti squash this week. A friend of mine was practically glowing with her recent first experience with it, and, inspired, I picked one up during my next visit to Trader Joe's. It was definitely worth it. Not only did it literally feed me for six meals, it was delicious, light, and remarkably like pasta (with a slightly different, but good, texture - and really wasn't terribly far off from some of the gluten-free pastas I've tried). For the sauce in this recipe, I wanted to make something that was chock full of vegetables, so I basically pureed/grated what I had in my fridge and mixed it with some marinara sauce (the grated mushrooms give this sauce its "meaty" texture).
Feel free to improvise - I definitely did, and it turned out deliciously.
Spaghetti Squash with Vegan "Meat" Sauce
1 spaghetti squash, sliced in half
1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce (I used Trader Joe's Tomato Basil Marinara)
1 cup baby carrots
1 cup mushrooms (I used baby portabellas)
1 roasted red pepperHandful of fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1 - 2 tsp. minced garlic
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, basil, and oregano to taste
Dash of cayenne pepperDaiya Vegan Cheese (or your favorite non-dairy cheese) to top
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place the spaghetti squash in a pan lined with parchment or wax paper (to avoid sticking) with the rind up, and bake for 35 - 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the rind goes in easily. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool (now with the rind side down).
In a food processor, place the carrots, mushrooms, roasted red pepper, and basil leaves and process until they have the consistency of being finely grated. Place in a saucepan over medium-low heat with 1 - 2 tsp. minced garlic and saute for 3 - 5 minutes, stirring often. You want to sweat the vegetables, not burn them! Add about 3/4 of the jar of marinara sauce to start with and stir well. If you want a thinner sauce, add more; if you want a chunkier sauce, leave it the way it is. Add the seasonings to your own taste and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Scoop out the "noodles" from the spaghetti squash and top with the sauce and Daiya Vegan Cheese, if desired.