My sister Linda gave me a recipe for spaghetti sauce using zucchini instead of meat. It was made in a slow cooker all day long and was delicious served over spaghetti squash. I lost the recipe and have been looking for a similar one for quite a while. I’ve found one that comes close and with a little tweaking was almost as delicious as Linda’s recipe!
I started by roasting the spaghetti squash the previous day. I was roasting vegetables for other recipes and for freezing and decided to get the spaghetti squash roasting out of the way as well. For a more detailed look at roasting spaghetti squash see previous post Roasting Spaghetti Squash 101. I let the squash cool then scooped the shells out and stored the spaghetti squash in a covered container in the fridge.
For the spaghetti sauce, I wanted the zucchini browned for a deeper flavor, but I also wanted it a bit firm yet, not squishy-mushy. Because squishy-mushy vegetables are usually gross. I diced the zucchini and fried it in a large skillet over medium high heat with a good drizzle of olive oil. I sprinkled it with salt and pepper to draw out the moisture, but not a great deal. More salt can be added later to taste.
When the squash was lightly browned I added a diced onion and let it sauté for 5 more minutes. I scooped the zucchini mixture into a bowl and set it aside.
Into the same skillet I added another drizzle of olive oil and 8 oz of mushrooms I’d cleaned and sliced. Again I salted to draw out the moisture. I let the mushrooms sauté until they began to change color, then added another cup of zucchini, this time shredded. It would make the texture of the sauce more like that of a meat sauce. I added teaspoon of minced garlic and let the mixture cook for a minute or two. I didn’t let the garlic brown because it gets bitter and that’s not pleasant!.
A 28 ounce can of tomatoes was the next ingredient to go into the same skillet. I used crushed tomatoes, not having diced on hand. Either would work well.
I also added 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, a teaspoon of basil, a teaspoon of oregano and a teaspoon of sugar. Canned tomatoes tend to be metallic tasting and a little sugar will mellow that out. I added a can of sliced black olives because we love black olives.
I let the sauce come to a bubbling boil, then reduced the heat and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Always mindful of the judges’ comments on the Food Network’s cooking contests, I know the canned tomatoes need to cook for at least 30 minutes to get the best flavors.
In the meantime I had heated the oven to 425°F again to heat the spaghetti squash. I drizzled a little olive oil over it and some salt and pepper. I slid the baking dish into the oven. I was using half of the roasted squash, enough for the two of us. I’d use the rest in another recipe later.
To finish bringing the sauce together I added the fried diced zucchini mixture to the sauce and stirred well. I taste tested, added more salt to taste. This dish needs quite a bit of salt as the zucchini seems to suck it up.
I also stirred in ½ cup shredded Parmesan, reserving more Parmesan for garnish.
I served the spaghetti squash topped with the zucchini sauce and a generous sprinkling of Parmesan. I thought it might be very close to Linda’s original recipe. I loved it and my P.S. was pretty impressed as well. We loved the richness of a bolognese sauce without the meat, over the slightly crunchy spaghetti squash. The vegetables trick you into thinking you’re eating spaghetti but you don’t miss pasta in the least. The dish could be made vegan by excluding the cheese or using a cheese substitute. It is a pleasant gluten-free version of course!
My P.S. loved this so much he asked me to make it more often. That’s the ultimate compliment!
Zucchini Bolognese with Spaghetti Squash
1 spaghetti squash
Drizzle of olive oil
6 cups zucchini; diced
1 large onion; diced (I used some red and some white onion)
Salt and pepper
Drizzle of olive oil
8 ounces sliced mushrooms (I used white button mushrooms)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Drizzle of olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups zucchini; shredded
1/2 teaspoon salt
small can sliced black olives and liquid
28 ounces diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon oregano
½ cup Parmesan; shredded + more for garnish
Cut spaghetti squash in half and place sliced sides down on foil on a baking sheet. Roast in a 425°F oven for 45 minutes or until fork can be easily inserted through the shell of the squash.
Remove from oven and cool for 30 minutes. Scoop out squash into a container and store covered in the refrigerator until used. (If making ahead)
When ready to make the meal, place desired portions of spaghetti squash into a ovenproof dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper and heat at 425°F for 15-20 minutes.
In a large nonstick skillet drizzle a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and add cubed zucchini and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Sauté cubed zucchini until it begins to brown. Add onion and continue browning until the onion is beginning to brown as well. Scoop into a bowl and set aside.
Add another drizzle of oil to the skillet and add the sliced mushrooms with another sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the mushrooms change color then add the minced garlic. Stir and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the shredded zucchini. Sauté for 2-3 more minutes.
Add the can of tomatoes, the tomato paste and the can of sliced olives, including the liquid. Add basil, oregano and teaspoon of sugar. Stir well and let come to a bubbling boil. Reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for 20 minutes.
Add zucchini and onion mixture to the skillet, stir well and taste test for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer another 10 minutes then stir in 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan.
Serve zucchini sauce over heated spaghetti squash garnished with more shredded Parmesan.
Adapted from several blogs, mostly N of 1 Nutrition and Fitness