Introduction: Spaghetti Squash Pasta

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I learned how to make this from the best cook I know. Grandma. It's a pasta dish that can be vegetarian and vegan and gluten-free, all at the same time! I am neither vegetarian, vegan, nor allergic to gluten. However, I do appreciate a meatless meal that doesn't taste like cardboard and grass. (I am a violent advocate for bacon and hamburgers, preferably together in a blanket of cheese...)

In an effort to be more polite at Grandma's, and to not go hungry, I would eat what she cooked and I would have to like it. She has gotten me to eat more veggies lately, and to appreciate the finer points of salads and fruits. I love spaghetti, it's one of those dinners my mom would cook that I could just eat and eat and eat. But when Grandma made this, I almost turned up my nose at the thought of squash noodles. (I am not fond of squashes in general) But hey, Grandma says eat, you eat.

Long story short, I love Spaghetti Squash Pasta. It's so much healthier for you too! So, here I am today to make my own Spaghetti Squash dinner.

Step 1: The What-Squash?

 Spaghetti squash is an actual squash. It's about the size of a rugby ball or football, and it has a light butter yellow rind. When you cook it in the oven, the inside softens up and can be scraped out as noodles. One squash is good for a few people, and might give you  leftovers. If you're cooking for a big family or event, get two. The second one doesn't need to be cooked right away, it can be cooked whenever you need it.

How to Bake the Squash:

Cut the squash in half, lengthwise.
Put the halves in a broiler pan,
Pour about a cup or two of water into the pan.
Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about an hour, until the inside is soft enough. To make sure it's soft enough, scrape the middle of the halves with a fork, and if the noodles are still crunchy/look white, it's not ready! Bake for another ten minutes until soft, clear and yellow-y.

When the squash is soft enough, and cooled down, take a fork and scrape the flesh out gently. The inside of the squash is made up of noodles! Imagine that. If you'd like to season the noodles a little, add some salt or butter. (Obviously no butter if this is vegan! However, there are vegan-butter-substitutes, so I've heard.) I keep my noodles fairly plain, since the sauce has a lot of flavor in it.

Step 2: Tomato Sauce

Made this one up myself, and it was taaaasty!

2-3 Tomato Paste cans (depends on how many people you'll feed!)
8 Vine Tomatoes (cut into bits)
2 chopped Bell Peppers (any color!)
1/2 chopped Onion (I choose white, but yellow is good too)
Green Olives (plain or stuffed with red pepper)
Fresh Basil Leaves (lightly, and barely, chopped)
Salt & Pepper

In a pot, simmer the canned tomato paste, 2-3 cups of water, vine tomatoes, green olives, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper. In a separate pan, heat the chopped bell peppers and onions, then add to the simmering tomato sauce. Let it simmer together until super tasty!

If you're me, you'll snack on a few green olives here and there, and maybe add another spoonful to the mix....

Step 3: For the Meat-Lovers

 If you'd like to add meatballs to this dish, by all means. For the truly carnivorous, I would use some ground beef cooked with the onions and bell peppers, lightly seasoned with your favorite spice combination. For the meatless/dietary needs eaters, almost any grocery store now has a meatless meatball or gluten free meatball. Cook those according to the packaging, and add to the simmering sauce.

When all is done, grab a plate and dish up some squash noodles and pour the sauce on top. Enjoy!

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