A recent The Wednesday Chef post on a baked tomato sauce caught my eye as looking both easy and fresh. I decided to try it with spaghetti squash instead of pasta--I can use all the calorie-reducing options I can find, as I do keep on baking those Heavenly-Cakes-of-the-week and finding great stuff in The Perfect Scoop. The baked tomato sauce turned out great and was a hit with both nieces and all the adults. (Nephew is at summer camp, but I'll predict this will not fall into his range of acceptable foods.) Younger niece had it on spaghetti squash as did all the adults, and older niece had it with pasta.
It's a meal that would work as vegetarian, but also lends itself to additions of a little meat for extra zing. We had grilled chicken tonight, or a little andouille sausage or some other sausage would also be nice sprinkled on top.
I doubled the recipe and that was a good thing, as the five of us at 3/4 of it. The larger amount somewhat thwarted my attempt to roast squash and sauce together, though, due to oven space. A half-squash and a single round of the tomato sauce would be perfect. Start baking the squash, prep the tomatoes and put them in after 15 minutes, and it should all come out at the same time.
I cut back on the amount of olive oil from the original, and didn't miss it. I zapped my squash in the microwave briefly just to make it easier to cut in half--if you're stronger than I am, just cut it, seed it, and throw it in the oven. Or if your oven space won't allow cooking the squash and tomato sauce together, the squash can be microwaved until done--most recipes say halve and seed it, cover the cut sides with plastic wrap, and microwave until tender.
Spaghetti Squash with Baked Tomato Sauce
Serves 6 or so, depending on appetites
Adapted from The Wednesday Chef's take on Nancy Harmon Jenkins' Pasta with Baked Tomato Sauce
1 large spaghetti squash (4-5 pounds)
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for finishing the sauce
2 pounds ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
2/3 cup panko, or plain dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano
1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped or run through a press
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Punch 2 or 3 holes in the spaghetti squash. Microwave it whole for about 3 minutes, cut it in half, and remove the seeds. Rub the cut sides with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and place the squash, cut side down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Place in the oven. (The squash needs about 30-35 minutes to bake--if the timing of your tomato sauce runs shorter or longer, just take the squash out when it is tender.)
3. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and an 8-by-8 baking dish with the oil. (A half-sheet pan might be about right to hold all of them.) Place the tomatoes cut side up in the dish.
4. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, cheeses, and garlic and toss with a fork to mix well. Sprinkle the bread-crumb mixture over the tomatoes, making sure that each cut side is well covered with the crumb mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until the tomatoes are cooked through and starting to brown on top, about 20 minutes.
5. When the tomatoes are done, add the basil and stir vigorously to mix everything into a sauce. Drizzle some additional olive oil over the top and mix well. I used perhaps another 2 tablespoons of oil.
6. Run a fork across the spaghetti squash flesh to separate it into strands. Serve topped with the tomato sauce.