Easy, Healthy and Guilt Free, Vegetarian “Spaghetti & Meatballs”

At the beginning of this past summer, I started eating plant based. This meant I had get real creative. I didn’t want to compromise on flavor and my favorite foods (sketti ‘n meat-a-balls being one of them). I also didn’t want to spend hours in the kitchen doing strange things to vegetables and stinking up the house. Luckily, my fiancé (still feels weird to say that!) is a huge team player and is always supportive in eating plant based dinners, which makes it easier on us because we’re not cooking two different meals. That being said, I wanted to make sure I was cooking meals that would leave us both satisfied and full, and not feeling like we’re just chompin’ away on celery stalks. I had to start thinking of new ways to reinvent some of our favorites. Enter, spaghetti squash. There are so many options you can make with spaghetti squash (more on this to come)! I still get amazed every time when these pasta like strands come from what was once squash.

Prior to going plant based, we had made spaghetti squash with turkey meatballs. While they were delicious, and I recommend this route if it fits into your diet, the turkey was no longer an option for me. I took a favorite  recipe for a meat free, “meatball” from one of my favorite cookbooks, Skinnytaste Fast & Slow,  and made a few tweaks for time and simplicity. Skeptical? Don’t be! My fiancé could not tell the difference, and we both  think this meatless version has more flavor. Here’s what you need to try one of our favorite, plant based dinners!

The Ingredients:

  • 1 large spaghetti squash (we usually have left overs which are good for lunch, or if you’re feeding a family you should have enough to do so)
  •  Olive Oil, or your favorite cooking oil
  • Spices and seasoning: salt/pepper, dried oregano, basil, minced garlic
  • Bread crumbs (I usually buy a 15 oz container so I can use for future recipes)
  • Parmesan cheese…in your favorite form (we’ve done shredded, shaved, and grated…all equally delish)
  • Egg Whites (1/4 cup)
  • 1 Large zucchini (usually makes 6 zucchini meatballs, if you’re feeding a family I would grab an extra zucchini)
  • Tomatoes (2-3 roma tomatoes), diced
  • Low sodium or organic tomato sauce

The How To:

First: Start with the spaghetti squash. This baby takes a little while to make, so you can prep the rest of the food while she cooks. But first…fire up that oven and preheat to 450.

  • Cut the squash “hamburger style” down the center. It is much easier to cut the squash this way, and your strands will end up longer and more pasta like
  • Stand the squash up, and hold steady. Use a sharp knife to start cutting around the squash. Once you have the squash cut in half, take a spoon and scrape the “guts.” You’ll feel like you are carving a pumpkin! You want ALL OF THE GUTS (and seeds) taken out of the squash and discarded.
  • Lightly coat the squash with some cooking oil. I usually use olive or coconut oil. Take a clean paper towel and soak it with the oil then use that towel to completely coat the inside of the squash. I also add a dash of salt and pepper so the flavor cooks into the squash.
  • Place squash with the open ends facing down on a lightly coated baking sheet, cook for 20-25 minutes

Then: While squash is cooking you’ll start making the “meat” balls.

  • Wash the zucchini and cut the end. Using a grater, grate the zucchini into strands over a bowl. Take a paper towel or cheese cloth if you have one, and squeeze the moisture out of the zucchini.
  • Add 1/4 cup egg white, salt and pepper. Stir so all zucchini is covered with the mixture. If you are making a larger batch of zucchini meatballs, use a little more egg white
  • Mix in 1/3 cup breadcrumbs, and a handful of parmesan cheese
  • Using a spoon, scoop out a spoonful of zucchini mixture and start to form your “meat” balls. You should form the “meat” balls about 1.5″ in size (a large spoonful’s worth) I can usually make around 6 meatballs from 1 large zucchini
  • Form the “meat” balls and set off to the side on a clean, dry plate
  • By this time, your squash will need to be flipped – flip the spaghetti squash so the open ends are facing up, pop back in the oven and cook for 10-15 more minutes

Next: Heat about a TSP of cooking oil (of your choice) over medium heat in a large (deep) skillet and add the zucchini balls

  • Once the zucchini balls seem to be lightly browned on all sides add in your tomato sauce and diced tomatoes
  • I like to add in pinches and dashes of salt + pepper, dried oregano, and a tiny pinch of minced garlic
  • Stir the sauce and let simmer for a few minutes then remove from heat

meatballs in skilletAlmost Done: Once the spaghetti squash is done, the real fun begins

  • You will need to make your “noodles” – I let the squash cool for a few minutes. Don’t be alarmed if there is a watery like substance in the squash. This is moisture from the vegetable and the olive oil.
  • I place a half  in a cereal bowl and use the bowl to steady the squash. Have a large bowl handy to place the noodles in. Take a fork and start to scrape the noodles away. I like to twirl my fork like you would in a plate of spaghetti.

Last: Done noodling? Time to stir in a few pieces of basil and then plate the dish! Zucchini “meat” balls over a bed of spaghetti squash, topped with all the extra sauce and parmesan cheese your heart desires. Enjoy!finished squash

If you try this recipe or have a favorite of your own, I’d love to hear!

 

 

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