My mom taught us three kids that even if we didn’t cook much, we should have a few specialty dishes that we learned to make well, so we’d always be prepared for last minute dinner parties. Stuffed Zucchini has been one of her go-to dishes over the past few years—mostly because of the large number of zucchinis that take over my grandparents’ garden in the late summer. They become so huge that stuffing them makes the most sense. And the best part? It’s one of those simple, colorful meals that looks like it took hours.
So while I’ve tried variations of Mom’s Stuffed Zucchini, this past Fall my boyfriend and I started experimenting with Spaghetti Squash. The result: Stuffed Spaghetti Squash—a light, slightly sweet taste of Autumn stuffed with a comforting, rich Bolognese sauce. They balance each other out so well, and I often serve it with a salad and baguette on the side (“to mop up the juices” as my grandmother loves to say–though she insists that this must only be done among family!).
Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
Cut spaghetti squash into quarters (ie. to be stuffed), lay out in glass Pyrex dish and cover with moist paper towels. Microwave 6-10 minutes, until able to scrape out insides with a fork. Scrape insides to make scooped out space for sauce–but fill back in with scraped squash.
In the meantime, in a 6 to 8-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 5 tbsp olive oil and 3 tbsp butter over medium heat. Add 1 diced onion, 1 diced rib celery, ½ cup diced carrots, 1-2 cloves garlic, 1 diced green pepper (can add diced baby Bella mushrooms if you’d like). Cook over medium heat until translucent and soft but not browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. In a separate pan, brown any variation of ½ lb ground beef/turkey and ½ lb ground pork (or insides of 3 sausages). Add 2-3 tbsp tomato paste, 2 can diced tomatoes, and 1 cup dry white wine. Add 1/2 to 1 cup chopped parsley and rosemary. Simmer over medium-low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until there is very little excess liquid. (Around fifteen minutes before done, pre-heat oven to 350°F.)
Place generous spoonfuls of meat sauce into squash quarters, and cover with a shredded cheese (sharp cheddar, Gruyere, or a mix with Parmesan) and Panko bread crumb topping. Bake in oven at 350°F for 30 minutes or until golden.
Serve with baguette “to mop up the juices” or with salad. Bon Appétit!
And if you’re too snowed in to hit the grocery store this week…here are a few local eateries to satisfy those winter comfort food cravings—and of course, share some of your favorites too!
Publick House, Brookline – Mac and Cheese. I like it with bacon, broccoli, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Mmm, bacon.
Carlo’s Cucina Italiana, Allston – Pasta! Pasta! Pasta! Try the Fettucini alla Marysa with a pink sauce. It’s my boyfriend’s favorite – and they’re so cheerful and friendly!
Silvertone, Downtown – Awesome stop after work. Menu has all the comfort food you can imagine. The tuna melt and the grilled cheese always hit the spot (and easy on the wallet, too).
Bukowski Tavern, Back Bay and Cambridge – I’ve never actually been, but have heard the burgers here rock (and I’ve also heard if you go at lunch time and ask for the dollar burger, you’ll get it but it’s not on the menu. Let me know if this is an old myth or not!)
Santarpio’s Pizza, East Boston and Pizzeria Regina, North End – I live in Brookline, so of course Pino’s Pizza is the go-to place. But local pizza fans rave about Santarpio’s and Pizzeria Regina if you’re in the city.