Yummy Italian Casserole

In all honesty, this post is much more about semantics than it is about getting a great new Italian recipe.

Spaghetti and Meat Sauce Healthy Style? No Dice!

Last winter, we went through a three to four month stint in which we followed a Primal diet (very similar to eating Paleo, with a few differences). The main thing with a Primal diet is the exclusion of all grains from your diet.  During that time, I had to get really creative as my family was not embracing our new lifestyle to the extent that I was.  Although they adhered to the plan, they were not pleased about the absence of grains, especially pasta.  Long before the Primal diet, I had tried to introduce my family to spaghetti squash as a much healthier alternative to pasta. They would have no part of it, so I would eat squash and meat sauce while the rest of the family would eat pasta. It was frustrating, but they simply did not like it.

Don’t Give Up ~ Your Family is Worth It

I am not one to give up on anything very easily.  I find that with most problems, it is at the point of highest frustration that one usually gives up. However, I have often found that if I persist just beyond that point, the solution is almost always around the next bend.  The key is really sticking with it long enough to reach the solution.  I really wasn’t ready to give up on the idea of substituting the pasta in some of our meals. I love this quote because I find that we often have the answer already, it is just a matter of thinking “outside the box” and looking at the problem from a new perspective.

“The problems are solved, not by giving new information, but by arranging what we have known since long.”
― Ludwig Wittgenstein

Such was the case of spaghetti squash vs. pasta.  In the end, I simply applied a strategy that has worked well for me in the past.  I changed up what I was doing ever so slightly and re-named the dish. So instead of spaghetti squash and meat sauce, we have Italian Casserole.  Same ingredients, with a different presentation and a new name!

What is Italian Casserole you may ask?

  • Homemade meat sauce (1 to 2 lbs of ground beef)
  • One cooked spaghetti squash
  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • Optional additions:  parmesan cheese, butter

Cooke spaghetti squash according to the directions on the sticker.  I generally poke it and microwave it for about 5 minutes before attempting to cut it in half.  I then cut it in half length-wise and scrape out the seeds (similar to a pumpkin).  The remaining “meat” is cooked (boiled, roasted or microwaved) until the flesh is soft and can be scraped away from the outer shell with a fork.  Slide the fork down the flesh to create spaghetti like strings.

You can stir in some butter and parmesan cheese at this point, if you wish. Grease a 9″ X 13″ casserole dish and line it with a small amount of sauce. Spoon all of the cooked spaghetti squash onto the sauce and spread it out. Cover with all of the meat sauce and then place grated mozzarella cheese on top. Cook for about 20 minutes.  You may want to broil for a minute or two at the end to brown the cheese.  Finally, the most important step…..tell your family that you are having Italian Casserole for dinner.  My family loves Italian Casserole, but continues to hate spaghetti squash and meat sauce.  It really is all in the presentation and semantics.  Ha! Ha! Mommy wins!

Italian Casserole

Variation:

Cottage cheese and spinach

Mix one cup of cottage or ricotta cheese with frozen spinach (thawed and drained) and a few tablespoons of parmesan cheese.  Spread this layer over the squash, so it forms a middle layer between the squash and thick layer of meat sauce.  Yummy and quite like lasagna.  Enjoy!

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About Cindy RoyI am a busy mother, wife and kindergarten teacher. I have a huge list of loves! I love my family, Springs Church, old houses, "up-cycling" and DIY projects, scrapbooking, volleyball, interior design, cake decorating, party planning, healthy eating, and sleeping. I am very organized and reflective, and am continually striving to do life more lovingly, passionately, effectively and successfully.

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