Take Comfort in Spaghetti... Minus the Spaghetti
Now that the winter season is upon us, I am craving warm, comforting foods that are satisfying, yet easy on the waistline. What could be more perfect than a delicious homemade marinara sauce? And in an effort to keep things light, and for all the gluten-intolerants out there, how about some calorie and carb-friendly spaghetti squash? Sounds good to me!
Marinara sauce is a rare exception to the fat equals flavour philosophy; it does not require a lot of fat to taste amazing. In fact, the only stitch of fat I typically use is heart-healthy olive oil. Other than that, this sauce is comprised solely of veggies and seasonings (and sometimes a little bit of chianti... I eat healthy but I could never completely write off my favourite food group). Seriously though, the sauce is fabulous with or without wine, and is a cinch to prepare. My recipe is adapted from Giada de Laurentiis’ Marinara Sauce from her cookbook Everyday Italian, a staple in my kitchen.
Do you go with canned or fresh tomatoes? Canned tomatoes will actually taste better than fresh in this sauce, especially at this time of year. With canned tomatoes, you’re actually guaranteed ultimate flavour, as they are packaged at the peak of their ripeness. Did you know that some types of canned tomatoes (those referred to as D.O.P.) are “protected” in much the same way as Champagne is from other sparkling wines? Canned tomatoes must adhere to a list of regulations pertaining to size, colour, and region (among other things) in order to receive D.O.P. certification, and must be of the San Marzano variety, widely believed to be the best-tasting Italian tomato. I made the recipe below with some lovely D.O.P. certified San Marzano basil-infused tomatoes from La Bottega (Zia Rosa, $2.99 for 796 mL), and the tomato flavour was incredible.
The next time you’re craving some healthy comfort food, go for some of this sauce with a heaping portion of spaghetti squash. Ok, so it’s not traditional pasta... but if that’s not an option for you, you’ll get your spaghetti fix in a whole new way. Buon appetito!
Spaghetti Squash with Marinara Sauce
-1/4 cup plus a splash of olive oil
-2 onions, finely chopped
-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
-2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
-2 stalks celery, finely chopped
-1/2 cup your favourite red wine, if desired
-2 28 oz cans good canned tomatoes (recommended: D.O.P.-certified San Marzano tomatoes, infused with basil if desired. I use whole because I like my sauce chunky but you can use whatever you want).
-2 bay leaves
-salt and pepper, to taste
-pinch of red pepper flakes (if desired)
-1 2-lb spaghetti squash
-parmesan cheese and fresh herbs (basil or parsley), for garnish
-Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add carrots and celery. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Cook about 7-10 minutes until vegetables are softened. If using, add red wine, and cook until mostly absorbed, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, crushing them with the back of your spoon to reach desired consistency, and bay leaves. Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about an hour.
In the meantime, prepare the spaghetti squash. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut squash length-wise and discard the seeds and fleshy inner pulp. Arrange squash, cut side down, on a lined, rimmed baking sheet that has been greased with a splash of olive oil. Add about a quarter inch of water (this will help speed up the cooking time). Cook for about 45 minutes, until squash is softened. Let rest about 15 minutes, until slightly cooled. Using a fork, scoop out flesh of the squash while keeping the “spaghetti” strands intact. Place in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Season sauce with salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes if using. Discard bay leaves. Serve with spaghetti squash. Garnish with parmesan cheese and fresh herbs, if using.
Lindsay (@Modern_Hostess) is a self-taught chef who has a passion for hosting. In her culinary experiments and musings, she shows that beautiful, flavourful homemade dishes are within everyone’s reach... as long as quality ingredients are used to prepare it. Join her as she peruses the fabulous inventory of La Bottega, and provides tasty ideas for enjoying their finest products.
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