I love me some pasta but lately I’ve fallen in love with Spaghetti Squash. A quick roast in the oven turns the insides of this amazing gourd into strands pretty close to the real thing. Depending on your diet, spaghetti squash is healthier than pasta. Once you start using it, there are an almost infinite number of ways you can use the ‘noodles’. And except for pesto, every pasta sauce I’ve tried with it sings.
I fell in love with Spaghetti Squash making a marvelous Cacio e Pepe version. Cacio e Pepe, made with pecorino cheese and fresh ground black pepper, is a pasta dish I could eat every night of my life. After making the spaghetti squash version dozens of times, I decided to branch out and invented an oven roasted version of another classic pasta sauce, Amatriciana. The name comes from the Italian town Amatrice, recently in the news as the town was hit badly by a number of earthquakes in 2016.
A spicy tomato sauce made with red and black pepper, red onions and guanciale, I first tried Pasta Amatriciana at a wonderful neighborhood Italian restaurant in New York City, Lupa. That dish blew me away so much I ordered a second bowl at the same sitting. More please. In the years since I’ve made various versions at home, usually substituting pancetta for the guanciale. I still love the pasta version, made entirely on the stove top, but lately it’s this oven roasted version, tossed with spaghetti squash, I eat all the time.
Don’t just trust me. A great friend of mine, Rob, who is Italian, says he loves the spaghetti squash version better than with regular pasta. (Don’t tell his mother he said that.) Trust me or trust Rob, you will love this version of the classic dish. It might not be the most beautiful plate you’ve ever served, but when it tastes this terrific, who cares?
And you can eat it guilt free!
1 large Spaghetti Squash
1 medium red onion
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled
2 large cartons of cherry tomatoes
8 oz of Pancetta (omit if you want a Vegetarian/Vegan version)
Red Pepper flakes
Fresh ground Black Pepper
Preheat your oven to 375.
Prep your spaghetti squash:
Cleave the squash down the middle vertically.
Scoop out the seeds and mess in the middle.
Rub olive oil, and a lot of salt and pepper into the skin.
Place cut side down on a baking sheet.
Prep your tomatoes:
Halve all the cherry tomatoes. (You can leave the tiny ones whole.)
Cut the red onion into healthy dice, you don’t want it too small. (See photo below)
Toss both together in a baking dish with a few good glugs of olive oil, healthy sprinklings of salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes, and 10 cloves of garlic, halved. Make sure it’s all tossed together well.
Lay sprigs of thyme on top, as well as any other herbs you like (rosemary and oregano are ideal.)
Cover with aluminum foil. (I like doing this because it makes the tomatoes and onions saucier. For less juice and a more roasted flavor, don’t cover with foil or remove the foil the last 15 minutes.)
Roast your vegetables:
Place both trays in the oven. At 35-40 minutes, remove the spaghetti squash, leaving the tomatoes in the oven for another 15 minutes.
(NOTE: If you have two ovens, roast the squash in one at 375 for 35-40 min and the tomatoes in the other at 400 for 45.)
When the spaghetti squash comes out of the oven and is cooling, drizzle some olive oil in a large pan or dutch oven and fry the diced pancetta over med-low heat. A minute or two before the bacon is crisp, add 3 cloves of minced garlic, taking care the garlic sautes but does not burn, i.e. stir the mixture, don’t let it sit and don’t cook it over high heat.
If the pancetta and garlic mixture finishes before the vegetables are ready, remove from heat.
Let the spaghetti squash cool until you can handle it. Take a fork and drag it over and over inside the squash. Voila! ‘Pasta Noodles’ appear.
When the tomatoes and onions are roasted, put the spaghetti squash noodles in your pot and toss with the oil, pancetta and garlic until warmed through. Then add the roasted tomato and onion mixture. Continue to stir and toss until all is warm and bubbling and mixed through.
Serve in bowls with grated pecorino.