September 24, 2010

Dolled Up (Jarred) Sauce

Squash season is in full swing. Due to my excitement over this tidbit, I bought one of every squash I could find at Trader Joe's. I already experimented with acorn squash, so tonight was the time to whip out the spaghetti squash and give it a whirl. The recipe I decided on is pretty basic and simple, but I gave it a few personal touches to make it taste like it took hours to cook. The secret? A little water, a jar of prepared sauce (I know, the horror) and a lot of love! First, an easy spaghetti squash how-to:

Note: I tried taking pictures but they came out awful, so hopefully this is good enough.

Step 1: Preheat oven to 400. Hack into it with a large, sharp knife. Beware, this one is a roller. I basically stabbed it in the center and worked my way, slowly, around the perimeter until I could crack it open with my hands. It took a little coaxing, but it wasn't too difficult.

Step 2: Now that you have two halves and a preheated oven, lay the spaghetti squash cut down on a baking dish and fill the dish with 1/4" water. This is a trick I use because it cooks the squash evenly and makes it super tender and moist. Bake it for 40 minutes or until the skin feels tender.

Step 3: Congrats, you have perfectly cooked squash! Now, scoop the seeds out of the small canal with a spoon and discard. Take a fork and gently remove the strands of squash so that it looks like angel hair pasta. The more you "fluff" the strands with your fork, the more voluminous and separated the "noodles" will be. Spend some time to properly fluff and I promise you'll be eating your weight in squash.

Step 4: You now have a big bowl full of tender, slightly sweet squash pasta. Of course this would probably taste fine just seasoned with S&P and a drizzle of oil, but why do that when you can dump a delicious sauce all over it?

I mentioned using jarred sauce, and I totally did in this recipe. While I definitely think homemade marinara is superior, sometimes I don't always have time to prepare it. Well, time or desire. Yes, I have tomatoes in the fridge and a can of San Marzano's in the cupboard, but Trader Joe's marinara was calling my name tonight. So, I spruced it up using these simple techniques:

- Saute 1/2 a medium yellow onion and 1 minced garlic clove in a little olive oil until translucent.
- Once translucent, add ~1/2 cup thinly sliced crimini or button mushrooms and cook until they just start to become soft and release their juices. Lightly season with sea salt and pepper.
- Add 3/4 cup jarred sauce (perfect for one hearty serving), one tablespoon balsamic vinegar, and pinches of dried oregano and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil and simmer for at least 5 minutes or until ready to serve.

Yes, I ate all of this. Do I care? No, come on, it's squash.

I topped it all off with some nutritional yeast and you know what? It was delicious! The balsamic definitely added a depth and warmth to the sauce that made it taste more homemade. Plus, the sauteed vegetables freshened it up. There's no need to scoff at jarred sauces as long as they're all natural and made with real ingredients. After a long day it's nice to know that dinner can be easy, mostly done for me and it tastes amazing.

Think of it as a little black dress spruced up with some sexy heels and diamond earrings. Or, in this case, balsamic vinegar and mushrooms.


  1. Loving squash season - had spaghetti squash this week too. It makes great veggie patties too. Oh, and microwave for about 5 mins - makes it easier (and safer) to cut! Hope you're having a great Friday evening girl.

  2. Ooh, veggie patties? I'm intrigued. I remembered your squash trick after I started to hack into this, and by then I just wanted to succeed in cutting it open manually, haha. You too!