Everybody loves a pasta dish, but the summer heat makes some of my favorites feel too heavy. In this dish, my love for summer vegetables met my Italian food cravings, and it was a perfect match. By trading carb-loaded noodles for spaghetti squash and ground beef for turkey (or leaving out the meat altogether), you’ll lighten up a traditional pasta Bolognese and have one that’s perfect for summer.
Ground turkey (about 1 pound)
1 red onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 cloves of garlic
Any stray tomatoes you have lying around (I used 2 handfuls of grape tomatoes that had gone wrinkly. Budget tip: Sauce is a great way to disguise vegetables that aren’t bad yet but are on their way out.)
1 jar generic tomato/basil sauce
Other veggies you might like to add:
1 spaghetti squash serves two people, so use that as a guide
Cheese, if desired. I won’t put an amount because, let’s be real, this entire recipe is just an excuse to pile on the Parmesan.
You could easily make this into a dairy free, meatless dish, and no noodles means that it’s gluten free. The best thing about this dish is that it doesn’t taste like you’re substituting anything. The squash really shines.
Start with the part of the meal that takes the longest: the spaghetti squash. If you’ve never had spaghetti squash, you’re in for a treat. They look like butternut squashes on the outside, but once you cut them in half and bake them, the flesh separates into fibers that resemble noodles.
Preheat your oven to a normal roasting temperature, around 350 degrees. Next, it’s time for the hardest part: breaking down the squash. These guys can be tough to cut into, so if you’re really struggling, just puncture it with a fork and microwave it for a little while to soften it up. I like to cut off both ends so that I have a flat, stable side to rest on while I cut it in half longways. Scoop out the seeds and lay the two halves cut side up on a baking pan. Drizzle them with olive oil and generous sprinkle of salt and black pepper, and then let the squash roast for 20 minutes or so, until the flesh can be easily pulled apart with a fork. You’ll see that it looks like noodles, just like I promised!
While the squash is roasting, prep all your veggies. It might seem like a lot of work in the beginning, but you’ll feel like a Food Network star when you can start cooking and have everything diced and ready to go.
So: mince the garlic, peel those carrots and then dice all of the veggies, making sure to cut them into uniform pieces so that they’ll all cook at the same speed. Heat up a little olive oil in a pan and then sauté the carrots, onion, tomatoes, and any optional veggies you might fancy on medium heat.
Once the veggies have softened, add your minced garlic (adding it any sooner will cause it to burn—garlic cooks pretty quickly). As soon as the garlic is fragrant, add the ground turkey and brown it in the pan. Be sure to hit it with salt and pepper, because turkey can be pretty bland! As soon as the turkey is completely browned (no pink), add a jar of store bought tomato sauce, the plainer the better. I always use a generic tomato/basil sauce—buying anything fancier is a waste of money, because you’re already packing in so much flavor.
Roll a small handful of fresh basil leaves into a loose burrito-shape and run your knife through the leaves to create small ribbons of basil, then stir into the sauce. Turn the heat to low, pop a lid on it, and let it simmer for as long as possible to let the flavors meld.
And that’s really all there is to it! To serve, just scrape the squash noodles out with a fork and top with a generous helping of sauce and whatever cheese or fresh herbs you might like to add. A friend and I made this for dinner a few nights ago to great success, and I ate the leftover sauce with crackers at work the next day. To quote my lovely dinner companion, “Best served with a crisp white and good company.”