Monkey Man enjoys a good meat sauce so that’s what was on the menu for dinner that evening. I had bought some spaghetti squash for the “noodles”, ground beef and spicy Italian chicken sausage for the meat sauce, but I felt the need to have something different. So I made two dishes really, but inspired by similar ingredients. So this post is a twofer – spaghetti squash with meat sauce, and stuffed bell peppers with parmesan spaghetti squash.
Stuffed peppers generally take a while to bake and by the time they’re done the pepper falls apart. Here, by precooking your meat for your filling, you can cook the pepper and the filling just long enough that the pepper maintains its shape and slight firmness while warming everything nicely.
Making both dishes took me about an hour – but the squash have to bake almost that long anyway for either dish. You can double squash and set aside for easy to reheat noodles later.
For this recipe you’ll need:
Olive oil or coconut oil (~4 T.)
1 t. ghee
2 lbs. ground beef
1.5 lbs. spicy italian chicken sausage (casing removed)
1 25 oz. jar of marinara sauce
1 6 oz. can of tomato paste
1 medium onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 c. spinach, finely chopped
4 oz. cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
4 bell peppers
6 small or 3 large spaghetti squash
2 t. salt
2 t. pepper
2 T. red pepper flakes
2 t. ground fennel
1 t. oregano
5 T. basil
2-3 oz. raw milk parmesan cheese, finely grated
Preheat the oven to 375F. Cut the spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and discard them.
Next, place the squash cut side up in a baking dish. I had to use two baking dishes – the squash are bulky.
Place squash in the center of the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes. The spaghetti squash will be the “noodles” in this dish, so, just as with pasta, if you want a firmer noodle (“al dente”) cut down the squash baking time by 5-10 minutes.
While the squash is baking, start the meat sauce and stuffed peppers.
Both the meat sauce and peppers require meat for filling, so you’ll need two saucepans – I recommend one tall saucepan (for the meat sauce) and one shallow saucepan (for the pepper stuffing).
Dice the onions and finely chop the garlic. I use the blunt side of my knife to smash the garlic cloves and then chop.
Add the olive oil or coconut oil to the bottom of the saucepans and heat on medium. Add the half of the onion and garlic to each pan.
For the meat sauce, cook the onion and garlic until the onion starts to become translucent. For the pepper stuffing, turn the heat up to medium-high and lightly carmelize (a.k.a. brown) the onion and garlic.
Add half of the ground beef and chicken sausage to each saucepan. For the meat sauce, you can leave the meat a little chunky if you’d like – it will break apart as the sauce cooks.
For the pepper stuffing, however, you will need to break the meat up into small pieces as you brown it.
Once the pepper stuffing meat is cooked, set aside to cool a bit.
Add the marinara sauce to the tall saucepan for the meat sauce. Add 1 t. salt, 1 t. black pepper, 2 T. red pepper flakes, 1 t. ground fennel, 1 t. oregano, 3 T. basil and stir. Turn the heat down to simmer the sauce.
Now, back to the pepper filling. Place the meat, spinach, and mushroom in a large bowl and combine. I use my hands to mix – it’s messy but faster than trying to mix with a spoon or spatula.
Next, add the can of tomato paste and spices (2 T. basil, 1 t. fennel, 1 t. salt, 1 t. black pepper) and mix thoroughly.
To prepare the bell peppers, cut off the top and set aside. Deseed the pepper but leave it intact. You’ll see in my picture that I halved the peppers – some of my peppers had gone bad so I improvised. The intent was to make an actual stuffed pepper 😉
Take a handful of the filling and firmly place into the pepper. Place the stuffed peppers in a baking dish and place the pepper tops on the stuffed peppers for baking.
At this point, the spaghetti squash should be done baking. Take it out of the oven and allow them to cool a bit before handling.
Place the stuffed peppers in the oven to bake at 375F for 15 minutes.
After about 5 minutes, scrape the spaghetti squash with a fork over a large bowl for your noodles.
Set aside half of the spaghetti squash in a medium sized bowl. Add 1 t. ghee, 2 T. basil, salt to taste, and 2 oz. of grated parmesan cheese.
Stir and viola, you have parmesan spaghetti squash.
Serve a stuffed pepper with a side of parmesan spaghetti squash.
Top some plain spaghetti squash in a bowl with the meat sauce. Sprinkle on some parmesan cheese if you’d like 😉
Make an Italian feast out of it 🙂 Buon appetito!