I was a self-proclaimed pastaholic in my past carb-loaded days. I could have probably enjoyed pasta multiple times a week, so I thought when I turned to keto I’d miss pasta terribly. Turns out no, I really don’t, which is a miracle in itself. That said, from time to time I do enjoy an Italian-flavored dish (hence my love of zoodles) and this recipe fits the bill perfectly. This is kind of a three-in-one recipe as I explain how to make super delicious and easy meatballs, how to cook a spaghetti squash to perfection and how to put it all together into one meal. You’re welcome! Just kidding, but really you could make just the meatballs as a wonderful appetizer (I’m thinking on toothpicks for a Superbowl party perhaps?) or the roasted spaghetti squash as a holiday side dish (with a little butter and parsley on top – yum!). Spaghetti squash is packed with Vitamins A, C, and E, magnesium and calcium, so aside from cutting the carb count significantly (7g vs 75g carbs per 100g of squash/pasta) as well as the calories (31 vs 371 per 100g of squash/pasta), it is beneficial to overall health, too. Although there are more steps than any of my other recipes, it’s very simple to make and the taste is worth the effort.
I rolled the mixture into 15 golf ball-sized meatballs and used this handy new tray I found at the store the other day. The pan is advertised for roasting fish, but I found the grooves held the meatballs up over the grease and prevented the bottoms from getting too soggy. You can, of course, cook them on a regular baking sheet, too.
Next I turned my oven up to 400°F and sliced the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. This can be a little tricky; I took my biggest knife and pressed it into the side of the squash and rocked it back and forth as deep as it would go (about 2-3 inches). Then I stood it on its end and did the same to the top before repeating again to the other long side. Eventually I sliced it enough I could pull it apart with my hands from the top down. Be careful not to cut yourself as it can wobble when you try to slice into it. The right side of the squash is what both sides will look like when opened. I scooped out the middle strings and all seeds, so it looks like the left half, before placing it on a lightly greased baking sheet with foil.
I drizzled one tablespoon of olive oil on each half and made sure to coat the entire surface with the back of a spoon. I seasoned both halves with salt and pepper before flipping them over so the cut side was face down on the foil. These baked for 40 minutes and were very tender when I pulled them out. You’ll know the squash is done if you can easily pierce the skin with a fork. When I pulled them out, I flipped them over and let them cool for 15 minutes so they would be easier to handle. I also turned my oven down to 350°F for the final stage of cooking.
One half at a time I took a fork and began pulling the spaghetti squash from the skin. The flesh should be so tender it gives easily without much effort. I continued shredding until all that remained was the outside skin before discarding. If you are making this as a side dish, you could add a little extra EVOO or some butter and herbs and it would be delicious. The squash is juicy, flavorful and almost has a buttery flavor on its own.
I set up an assembly line of my favorite marinara sauce, Rao’s Sensitive Formula (only 2g net carbs per serving, the lowest I’ve come across), spaghetti squash, meatballs and mozzarella cheese and started with a small layer of sauce in my 8×8 glass baking dish.
From there the layering is simple: spaghetti squash, meatballs, mozzrella and then sauce. Repeat. I ended up making two full layers (sauce, squash, meatballs, cheese, sauce, squash, meatballs, cheese) and then topped with the remaining squash, a little more sauce and the rest of the cheese.
When the layering was complete, as shown above, I placed it back in the oven for 20 minutes until the cheese was fully melted. When it came out of the oven, the kitchen smelled absolutely delicious. I recommend using a slotted spoon when plating as there may be excess water from the squash at the bottom of the baking dish. This is completely normal and expected – if you can let it sit a few minutes before devouring (good luck!) the cheese will soak up some of the liquid. There is nothing to not like about this dish and it tastes even better as leftovers once the flavors marinade together even more. It is a bit higher in carbs than the majority of my meals, but for a special treat it is worth it. Let me know your favorite Italian dish (low carb or otherwise!) in the comments down below.