Monday, February 24, 2014

Dutch Oven Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce

My mom made Spaghetti squash a lot when I was a kid, so I’m pretty familiar with it. For those that aren’t, it’s a yellow winter squash, and after it’s cooked, the flesh is scraped off the rind.  When you do it, the flesh shreds into short strings and looks a lot like spaghetti. It has a slightly sweet taste with a crunchy texture.

My mom always served it up with some kind of marinara/meat sauce, and I liked it a lot.  I can remember one time, I had this “Ah-ha!” moment, and I blurted out to my mom, “They must have crossed a squash with spaghetti!”.  And as soon as I said it, I realized how dumb that was.

So much for “Ah-ha...”

Lately we’ve been trying to eat healthier, so we got a few squashes.  I did some research and found that there are a lot of ways that people use them.  Of course, there’s the traditional “italian” tomato sauces, as a main dish, but there are also those that use it as a side, and just apply butter, garlic and herbs.  Another cool thing is that it will keep on your counter top for weeks.

In this dish, I wasn’t really going for “healthy” because I used ordinary pork sausage, but even still, I figured that a full plate was only about 700-750 calories, including the parmesan and feta. That’s not bad for a main evening meal.  If you wanted to go even less, you could use ground turkey, and even spice it like a sausage.

 Another comment:  It was tricky to figure out how many spaghetti squashes to cook for how many people.  For some reason, the websites I looked at didn’t say, either.  I found that as a main dish, one squash will do a full plate for two people.  As a side, one spaghetti squash could probably serve three to four.

Dutch Oven Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce

14” Deep Dutch oven (to cook two squashes)
16-18 coals below
20-24 coals above

12” Shallow Dutch oven
18-20 coals below

2 spaghetti squashes
olive oil

1-2 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions
About 6 mushrooms
1 green pepper
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb ground meat (I used sausage)
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 14 oz can tomato sauce

Parmesan cheese
Feta Cheese

I started out by lighting up a lot of coals, because I’d be cooking both the squashes and the sauce side-by-side.  I cut the squash in two, lengthwise, using a butcher knife.  It was tough, so I went with the big blade!  I scooped out the seeds and the stringy guts and left the regular squash flesh in place.  I drizzled on some olive oil and some salt in each half, and put them into the oven, upside down.  I cut open the second one and did the same.  Actually, I had some of the pieces the other way, like a bowl, and the moisture got trapped as it cooked, and made for runnier “noodles”.

The squash had to cook for a long time.  In retrospect, I would consider pre-heating the Dutch oven, while getting everything ready.  That would have cut down on the time a bit.  Once the squashes were in place, it was just a matter of maintaining the heat, for about an hour and a half.

In the meantime, I made the sauce.  It’s a pretty straightforward spaghetti meat sauce, and if you wanted to, you could even use bottled sauce.  But I made my own.

I started off with coals under my 12” Dutch oven, heating up a bit of olive oil.  I sliced the mushrooms and started sauteing them.  My wife likes her mushrooms cooked down quite a bit, browned and done.  Over the years, I’ve come to love them this way, too.  It takes a little longer, though.  Once they’re close to done, I added in the onions and the peppers, and, finally, the garlic.  A bit of salt as each one is added helps to extract the moisture.

Once the veggies had gotten a little brown, I cleared them off to the sides and put the meat in the center.  I browned it fully, and added the tomatoes (with liquid), and the sauce.  Finally, I added the seasonings to taste, and replenished the coals for a good simmer, with the lid on.

When I could stick a little wooden skewer into the flesh of the squashes without much resistance, I knew they were done, and the sauce was well-simmered as well.  I brought it all in.

I let the squashes cool, with the lid off, for a little bit so they would be easier to handle.  I pulled each one out, one at a time, and, with a fork, began scraping the insides of the squash “bowl”, lengthwise.  Immediately it pulls apart into short threads, like pasta.  I lifted it out as I went onto the plate,  When the squash was empty, the plate was full, and I spread it out.  I ladled on some of the sauce, and finally, sprinkled on the cheeses.

You eat it with a fork, but not like spaghetti, where you twirl it around.  The “noodles” aren’t long enough for that.  You just scoop up a forkful and enjoy it!  This was the first time my son remembered trying it, and he loved it!

Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

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