I remember the first time I ever ate spaghetti squash. It was October 2007 and I was just beginning to climb out of the vast hole of sickness that had consumed me for the better part of three months. Dayv had traveled down to Tennessee for his sister's wedding and I stayed behind, still afraid of a potential relapse of my mysterious illness.
My mom had recently picked up a spaghetti squash at the grocery store and explained to me that once it was cooked, resembled and could be eaten like spaghetti. Considering the fact that I grew up loving spaghetti, but did not miss the way it made me feel afterwards, I was beyond excited at trying this pasta-like vegetable.
My parents went out, but to where I can't remember. I followed my mom's instructions on cooking the squash, and after it was done, scooped the entire noodly contents into a gigantic mixing bowl. I topped it with sauteed vegetables and lots of tomato sauce. It was my version of pasta primavera. I sat at the computer desk, shoveling large spoonfuls into my mouth while simultaneously watching every possible youtube video I could find of a certain evolutionary biologist with the initials RD. I felt like such a grown-up.
The other thing I remember? I didn't really like my "pasta primavera". The spaghetti squash was a little too al-dente and I piled so many crunchy vegetables on top that it was bit of a chore to eat. But I ate the entire thing in one sitting because I was just proud that I had made it.
I recently remembered this memory and had a strong desire to recreate my original recipe from five years ago. This time, I cooked the spaghetti squash until it was tender and topped it with sauteed red onion, garlic, mushrooms, and olives, which were simmered in tomato sauce, and polenta croutons. This time, I ate my spaghetti squash primavera and loved it, not only because I created it, but also because it was delicious.
Notes: You have the option of either baking the polenta croutons or adding them to the vegetable saute. Although I enjoy them both ways, when they are simmered in the tomato sauce they get perfectly soft and plump. I also sometimes add chickpeas, which makes it a little heartier for a complete meal. Leftovers are delicious in a casserole. Simply layer spaghetti squash strands on the bottom of a casserole dish and top with the leftover sauce. To reheat, bake in preheated oven to 400 for about 15-20 minutes.
Spaghetti Squash Primavera
serves three to four
1/2 c polenta
1 1/2 c water
pinch of salt
1 tbsp nutritional yeast(optional)
1 large spaghetti squash, cut in half with seeds removed
1/2 large red onion, finely diced
2 c sliced baby bella mushrooms
16 black olives, sliced
1 c diced tomatoes
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
homemade tomato sauce, or your favorite tomato sauce
Line an 8x8 casserole dish with parchment paper. In a medium pot over medium high heat, combine polenta, water, and salt. Once water begins to bubble, reduce heat to medium and continually stir. Add in nutritional yeast when the polenta begins to "plop" and continue to stir until a very thick porridge is created. Transfer to prepared casserole dish, smoothing the top. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. After the polenta is firm, cut it into cubes, approximately the size of croutons.
Preheat oven to 400. Place squash cut side down on a large casserole dish that is filled about 1/2" with water. Poke several holes through the top and cover the dish(s) with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven until cooled enough to handle. Using a fork, scrape out the insides of the squash, which will resemble strands of spaghetti.
In a large cast iron skillet, saute onion in olive oil until lightly tender. Add mushrooms and continue to saute until their moisture is released. Add in olives, garlic, tomatoes, and cubed polenta*, and saute for an additional 3-5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add desired amount of tomato sauce. Start with 1 1/2 cups and add more if desired. Simmer until tomato sauce is warm.
To serve, equally divide squash on plates and top with desired amount of sauce. Enjoy!
*If you want a crispier crouton, place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for the last 10 minutes the squash in cooking.