One of my youngest son's staple meats has been meatballs. However, this past week, he has decided that he is tired of them and has, of course, refused to eat them, to the point of throwing them off his high chair (he's 14 months). When the two older boys actually agreed on spaghetti and meatballs one night, it gave me an idea on how to mix up the youngest's meatball strike.
Although there are good gluten-free, egg-free spaghettis out there, they are more expensive and are not readily available in our small-town grocery stores. My favorite alternative is spaghetti squash. For well under a dollar a pound and packed with nutrition, they are a deal. Eating healthy is only expensive if you're eating a lot of meat or if you're relying on "healthy" processed foods. Fruits, veggies and beans/legumes are a better value nutrition-wise--and frequently budget-wise--than a box dinner "made with whole grain". But that's another soap box for another time.
I like to make my spaghetti sauce from scratch, eliminating preservatives and hidden ingredients. The timing of this recipe had me feeling like Iron Chef, with everything timed just right, and no wasted time. I was wishing I had my own sous-chef!
Spaghetti Squash with Mini Meatballs
1 medium spaghetti squash
1 pound gluten-free Italian sausages, casings removed
8 ounces tomato sauce
14.5 ounces diced tomatoes
1 medium onion
2-3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut squash in half. This is easier said than done. I wish I could share an easy secret for cutting a squash in half without a struggle. Unfortunately, I have not learned that secret. My best guess involves either a chain saw or a machete. Place squash cut sides down on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.
As soon as the squash is in the oven, put the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes in a medium saucepan over low heat.
While the squash is baking and the tomatoes are warming, form the Italian sausage into small meatballs, maybe 1-inch in diameter. No other ingredients, just the yummy goodness of the sausage. I did one sausage link at a time, as that seemed to be a nice fit in my skillet, and I could roll up the next sausage while the first one was browning.
Place the meatballs in a skillet that has been heated over medium heat. Brown the first side for a minute or two (this helps them stay together better instead of ending up as crumbles), then sauté them until they are cooked through. Remove and keep warm. Repeat with remaining sausages until done. Add the sausages to the tomato sauce and bring heat up to medium-low. (I used two sausages worth for the sauce, and set the rest aside for my son's meals later.)
At this point, the squash is probably ready to come out of the oven. Set it aside to cool a bit so you can handle it, and continue with the sauce.
You probably ended up with drippings from the sausage. You're probably inclined to drain it off. Not so fast. This is where the flavor is going to come from. Add the onions and garlic to the drippings and sauté until the onions are tender. Add them to the sauce along with the Italian seasoning. Let the flavors meld and get happy while you tend to the squash.
Although it will have cooled some, you still may want to use hotpads. Shred the "meat" of the squash into spaghetti-like strands using a fork. It's really pretty easy!
Serve sauce over spaghetti squash, making sure each plate gets some of the meatballs, and top with Parmesan cheese if desired and/or allowed. Makes 4 servings.