Archive for April, 2011

The Magic of Spaghetti Squash (Gluten-free & Good for Passover)

We are finally easing out of winter and heading into spring (even though it doesn’t feel like it yet!) but I wanted to share a squash recipe that’s perfect for Passover and gluten-free folks.

The reason why I love teaching people how to prepare squash is because the most difficult part of the recipe is slicing it open – the oven does the rest. And, because no matter how old my students are, if it’s their first time experiencing spaghetti squash, they are delighted to discover it’s resemblance to pasta! Kids are so intrigued by it that they often forget that it’s a new food (that happens to be a vegetable) and eat it like they would noodles. That also may have to do with my marketing strategy which includes introducing it as “just like spaghetti” and omitting the word, “squash.” When it comes to kids, it’s all about marketing….

Give it a try while the weather is still cool! Both the sauce recipe (from my cookbook, Easy Meals to Cook with Kids) and the squash yield plenty of leftovers for lunches or after-school snacks.

spaghetti_squash_prepared360pxBaked Spaghetti Squash

1 spaghetti squash


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Using a sharp knife, cut spaghetti squash in half. Scoop seeds out and either throw away or save them to lightly toast in the oven later.  Then cut each half into even quarters.

On a half-sheet tray or a 9 x 13 inch pan, add enough water to barely cover bottom of pan.  Place squash pieces in the pan with the shell facing up.  Bake 30-40 minutes or until squash is soft and pulls apart easily.

Basic Basil Tomato Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 yellow onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 3 cloves)
2-3 stalks celery, diced
1 large carrot or 10 baby carrots, diced
One 14-ounce can of tomato sauce
One 28-ounce can of diced or crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
4 tablespoons fresh basil (or 2 teaspoons dried)
1-2 teaspoons dried Italian Seasoning
1-2 cups water
Kosher salt or sea salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Optional: bell peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, or additional fresh herbs, chopped

In an 8-quart stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the oil on medium heat. Cook the onions on low heat until translucent, about 10-12 minutes. Stir in the garlic, celery, carrots and any other vegetables, and cook for 15 more minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomato sauce, crushed or diced tomatoes, bay leaf, half the fresh herbs, the spices, and water and bring it to a boil.

Turn the heat down to low, and simmer for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. You may need to add water since the sauce thickens while it cooks. Stir frequently, especially if you don’t have a heavy-bottomed pan. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the sauce from the heat and take out the bay leaf. Add the rest of the fresh herbs and stir well.

To create a smooth texture, purée the sauce with a hand-held immersion blender (or in a regular blender once it’s cooled down). This sauce can be used for pizza, calzones, pasta, lasagna, manicotti, or eggplant Parmesan. You can store it for up to 5 days in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.

Cooking Tips:

-You don’t need every single vegetable or herb in order to prepare this recipe – but the onions are a must. Try making Caramelized Onions to create a richer tasting sauce.

-This recipe yields more than you’ll need for one meal so that you can freeze the leftovers in dinner-sized portions. Don’t forget to date them!

-Use up your wilting vegetables and bruised tomatoes for this recipe instead of letting them go to waste.

-Italian Seasoning is a mixture of basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram and other herbs.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1½ – 2½ hours
Yields: 7-8 cups
Recipe from Easy Meals to Cook with Kids 2010 © by Julie Negrin