With summer holidays well behind us and school back in full swing, all of a sudden it seems like dinner is once again an issue. I don’t know if it’s the shorter days or the extra activity that hits in the fall—probably a little of each. But every year around this time I find myself yearning to prepare most of my meals in advance, so all that’s left to do is heat and serve. This tasty casserole is both a great way to put a quick dinner on the table and get your kids to eat their vegetables.
For those who want to cut back on their grain or carbohydrate consumption, spaghetti squash is a popular stand-in for pasta. Pasta purists will tell you it neither tastes nor acts like noodles at all—and they’re correct. But the crispy strands of squash give at least the illusion that you’re eating the real thing. And kids love it!
Spaghetti squash is unique from other winter squash in that it’s not sweet and the texture isn’t as soft. When cooked, the flesh is fluffed into long threads that offer a slight crunch and a mild flavor. This makes it ideal for both sweet and savory applications, and it’s great served both hot and cold. Paired with a chunky meat sauce, like the one here, it transforms into a hearty meal perfect for a cool evening. Feel free to add any other vegetables you may have to your ragu. For a complete meal, pair with a side salad and maybe some crusty bread.
Baked Spaghetti Squash with Basil, Beef, and Sausage Ragu
As previously noted, the entire casserole can be prepared in advance and stored in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to serve, cook in the oven according to the instructions below. Alternatively, the components can be stored separately and the dish assembled just before baking.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1½ hours
- 1 large spaghetti squash, cut in half, seeds removed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for squash
- Salt and pepper
- 1 lb. ground beef
- ½ lb. bulk Italian sausage
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup red wine
- 2 small zucchinis, diced
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 4–6 cups diced tomatoes, fresh or canned
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
- 3 cups shredded cheese in whatever combination you prefer: provolone, mozzarella, Asiago, Parmesan cheese, or another cheese of your choice (feta would be really good)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Rub the cut sides of the squash with a little olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place cut side down on a baking sheet. Cook until shell is just tender and gives slightly to pressure when tested with your finger, about 35–40 minutes. (If overcooked, the strands don’t stay separate, and they can get mushy.) Remove from oven. Flip halves over to let steam escape and cool slightly. Turn off the oven if not cooking the casserole immediately.
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large pan. Cook beef and sausage until browned. Transfer to a bowl. Add onion and garlic to pan, season with salt and pepper, and cook until tender. Return meat to pan, then add the wine. Simmer until wine is reduced by about half. Add zucchini, tomato paste, and diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until mixture is thick and saucy, about 15–20 minutes. Stir in basil. Adjust seasonings to taste.
- Using a fork, separate the strands of squash from the shell. Drizzle a 9×13 baking dish with olive oil or rub the base with butter. Spread a scant ½-cup sauce on the baking dish. Add half the squash. Season with salt and pepper. Add half the remaining sauce and spread evenly. Top with half the cheese. Repeat process of squash, sauce, and cheese.
- If baking immediately, place in preheated 400°F oven and cook until the casserole is bubbling and the top is golden brown, about 20–30 minutes. If baking from a refrigerated state, let it sit at room temperature while oven preheats. Bake until bubbling and golden brown, about 45–55 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.
To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:
- chemical- and hormone-free meat
- wild-caught fish
- pasture-raised, organic eggs
- whole, unrefined grains
- virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
- whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
- pure, clean, spring water
- sea salt
- raw and/or cultured milk and cream products