November 12, 2012

Spaghetti Squash with Herb Pork Meatballs (Recipe)

I really love spaghetti squash.  Ever since I was introduced to it, it is my preferred way to eat spaghetti.  Forget extra nutrition (although it's there in abundance.)  I just think it tastes better.  The squash is rich and buttery, and goes well against red sauce.  The chorizo spaghetti recipe I presented a couple weeks ago is a prime example, with the chorizo and chicken broth both complementing the squash perfectly, but when I wrote the post I ended up using regular noodles to appease Boy, who does not at all feel the way I do about this amazing vegetable.  
Although I spared his feelings that time, it made me really hungry for the real thing.  I went out and got the squash, but felt I could do something besides the usual sauce and satisfy my craving while still developing something new.  There was a left over pork loin in the fridge, and I decided to try my hand at homemade meatballs.  Luckily, they were a hit.  This is what I did:

Who needs noodles?
First things first, you'll want to get your squash into a 375 degree oven.  Slice it in half down the middle, scoop out all the seeds and stringy bits, and give it a nice all over with some olive oil.  Then season the inside of the squash with salt and pepper and place the halves face down in a baking dish.  These will cook for 45-50 minutes, which should be plenty of time to get the rest of the meal made.

What is spaghetti sauce without mushrooms?
Just like the steak sandwiches from last week, you will want to slowly cook your mushrooms in butter.  (1 tablespoon for the first batch, adding more as needed.)  The biggest difference?  Instead of removing the first batch as it completes, slide it to a corner of the pan and just keep adding batches.  As long as you stay on medium heat, the mushrooms won't burn or dry out, and you want to keep all this flavor in the pan since you will be adding the other components of the sauce onto it.  
 The mushrooms will take a good amount of time to brown on each side, and so it's a good time to get started on the meatballs.  I chopped 1/2 a cup of onion, eight cloves of garlic, and a jalapeno (with seeds.)  All of this is going to be going into a food processor, and so you don't have to worry about the size that much.  (If you don't have a food processor you can replace the pork loin with ground pork and simply mince all the other ingredients.)  In a small pan, cook the onion, garlic, and peppers just until soft.    Add them to a food processor along with one and a half pounds of pork loin, chopped into bite sized pieces.  Add two tablespoons of brown sugar, one tablespoon of olive oil, a tablespoon of soy sauce, and two teaspoons of black pepper.Pulse until the meat begins to turn into a paste.  Scrape the sides of the processor, and add the remaining ingredients:

2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped.
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, removed from the stem.
1 large egg
1 slice white bread soaked in milk (just enough to fully saturate the bread, drain any excess.)

Incorporate the final ingredients into the meat mixture.  They are now ready to form into 1/4 inch balls.  Using bread soaked in milk instead of bread crumbs will still help--along with the egg--to bind the meatballs, but the real advantage here is that it will also help keep the meatballs moist.  These are really the most tender meatballs I've ever had.   Pan fry them with just enough olive oil to keep them from sticking (1-2 teaspoons) in a skillet over medium-high heat.  They will cook more in the sauce, so don't worry if they are a little pink in the middle at the end, just get a nice even crust all over the outside.  
The fresh herbs give these a ton of flavor.
By the time you're putting your meatballs on, all the mushrooms should be cooked down.  Add 4 diced roma tomatoes, 1 diced red bell pepper, and 2 cloves of minced garlic, and just let it cook down until the peppers are soft and the skins begin to come loose from the tomato pieces.  (I removed those that I saw with a pair of tongs, but it won't affect the outcome that much if you miss any.)
I like adding things like bell pepper or carrot to spaghetti sauces for additional pizzazz. 
Once the peppers have softened, add the meatballs to the sauce. (And, assuming you cooked your meatballs in batches, any of the liquid that released from the earlier batches.)  Stir in one can of tomato sauce and simmer for five minutes.

 Meanwhile, your squash should be done.  Remove it from the oven and, using a fork, scrape everything into a large bowl.  Continue to use the fork to shred the squash, breaking it into "noodles."

Perfectly cooked.
Once you've gotten the squash broken down, serve it just like regular spaghetti, topped with freshly shredded parmesan cheese.  Instead of basil, complement the herbal notes of the meatballs by placing a bit of fresh sage on top of this filling fall alternative to regular spaghetti.

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