I forgot how much I liked spaghetti squash! And I don’t like it as a sub for pasta (it’s not anywhere close to tasting like a noodle), but I do like it for what it is – a squash. It’s such a fun vegetable. And sooo simple to prepare, not to mention easy to adapt to whatever dish you feel like making that day. I’ve eaten it with pestos, ragoûts, brown butter / sage sauce, even just topped with herbs and cheese. But this here is my current favorite.
I just came home from my anniversary trip to IslaMorada (15 years!! 🙂 ) and walked into a fairly bare kitchen. Not wanting to go back out again, I eyed my bowl of winter squashes and decided something spaghetti squash would be my lunch for the day. And then anything I could throw together from the pantry would suffice for what goes on it.
I had most of a pint of grape tomatoes still surviving on the counter, and that’s where I began.
Puttanesca! Yes. That’ll do.
And since I always have a stocked pantry, I knew I could find all the things necessary to make that happen. (No, like, a super stocked pantry. Like, I could throw a party for 20 tonight if you asked me. Please don’t though, I’m tired.)
Olives, capers, anchovy paste, tomato paste, I even had fresh herbs still kickin’ in the fridge! This is a very simple recipe, I’ll include some notes and substitution ideas, but just follow the general flavor profile and you’ve got yourself a Puttanesca! You can also add protein, which I’ve done before as well. If I don’t have any leftover meats in the fridge, I’ll sometimes add canned tuna… even the addition of a jammy egg is delicious for the days your body needs some extra protein.
And in case you’re unaware – Puttanesca is a sauce originating from Naples, and there’s a couple different versions of its origin story, but my favorite is that ‘ladies of the night’ a.k.a ‘puttanas’ would make it in between clients because it was so quick and easy to do.
Ladies need their fuel.
Now, I didn’t have any of that extra motivation to make this quicker or easier, but I was likely just as satisfied.
SPAGHETTI SQUASH PUTTANESCA
First, roast your spaghetti squash…
Preheat your oven to 450.
Slice your spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise.
Scoop out the seeds and clinging strings (save for roasting the seeds for another use!)
Cover a baking sheet with foil for easy clean-up.
Spray or drizzle the foil well with oil.
Using the baking sheets as your working space, drizzle the flesh of each squash half with extra virgin olive oil and season liberally with kosher salt.
Place the squash halves, cut-side down, onto the greased foil-lined sheet.
Roast for 20 minutes.
Flip the squash halves over and roast for another 5-10 minutes, or until the flesh is tender and beginning to turn golden brown.
(You can tell it’s tender enough by using your fork to pull at it and see if it’s stringy like noodles.)
While your squash is roasting, start making your sauce…
In a medium skillet (I prefer non-stick), melt 2 TB of either extra virgin olive oil, butter or ghee over medium heat.
Add in about 1 teaspoon or so of anchovy paste (Don’t have any? Or you’re vegan/vegetarian? No worries- tastes great without it too. Also can use 2 anchovy fillets that will melt down on its own.)
Add in 1 pint of grape or cherry tomatoes, poke them with a fork or knife so they won’t pop on you (Don’t have any fresh? No worries! Use a small can of whole, peeled tomatoes and smush them up a bit. You can also use diced, but whole tomatoes are a better product… see note at the bottom for bonus tomato lesson*)
Season with a couple pinches of kosher salt. (You can go lighter than you normally would on the salt, because a lot of the other sauce ingredients are salted.) Shake the pan to coat them all in the fat.
Add in 2 minced cloves of garlic (I do the lazy-mince and use a large format cheese grater / microplane)
Allow these to cook and then shrivel and brown and release their juices. (I like to cover the pan with another pan to make it go faster.) This can take about 10 minutes, depending on the size of your tomatoes, and also your type of stovetop.
Once they’ve gotten to that point, add in 2 large spoonfuls of tomato paste (Don’t have a can open and don’t wanna open one? Don’t. It’ll still be fine, but I always freeze the rest of what’s in a tomato paste can – see vintage video of how I do it at the bottom of the post)
Deglaze the pan with a good glug of red wine vinegar. Scrape the bottom of the pan to release any sticky bits (a.k.a the fun term for ‘fond‘, which is French for bottom).
Throw in 2 large spoonfuls of capers (jarred in brine).
Throw in about 8 olives, pitted and sliced (I strongly prefer Castelvetrano Olives to any other olive on the planet, and highly suggest you look for them at your local grocery story.)
Shake the pan and toss everything so they become one.
Taste it and check seasoning. It should have some nice tang to balance out the salt, and a roundness from the fat.
When your squash is ready, place on your plates and using your fork, pull at it to get all the squash strings up and ready.
Grate or sprinkle some parmesan cheese over your warm squash halves.
Pour your hot sauce evenly over the cheesy squash.
Season with crushed red pepper flakes and more parmesan cheese – both to your liking.
Finish with chopped / torn fresh parsley and basil (or whichever you have of the two)
Eat and don’t try to pretend it’s pasta. It’s not. It’s squash that you get to put yummy things on top and eat with a fork in a fun stringy kinda way.
Thanks for reading, y’all! Much love x
Follow the highlights of our IslaMorada trip by following me on Instagram. There’s also a highlight story titled 15 on my profile page.
*Whole canned tomatoes are always a better product than diced, stewed or pureed canned tomatoes. It’s also why they can be more expensive and why you should always stock up on them when they go on a BOGO or B2G3 type of sale. It’s because the tomatoes in the ‘whole canned’ used are the prettiest and unbruised, ripest tomatoes. The tomatoes used in the other broken down forms are the ones that had spots on them, or weren’t ripe or good enough to be used whole.