I love pasta. Not just any pasta- a good, high quality Italian-made steaming pile of buttery pasta. In college, my roommate and I would eat a plate of pasta whenever we were feeling a little blue. Once, when I was traveling through Italy with friends, we stayed in Rome for about a week. One night, dazed and exhausted from 10 hours of gazing at ancient art and palatial ruins, we stumbled across a hole-in-the-wall restaurant nestled down a side street. It only had one small sign, was under a creaky fire-escape-esque flight of stairs, and the restaurant itself was cavernous and lit by candles and some flickering wall sconces. (Why we thought it was a good idea to eat here, I still don't know.) This restaurant, Alfredo's, was a little slice of heaven. To this day, the best pasta I have ever had has been at this restaurant. We tried others while in Rome, of course, and I've spent time traveling throughout Europe, and other parts of Italy. But Alfredo's? The greatest. I even fondly remember their glasses of house wine being cheaper than their water. Alfredo's: a modern-day Roman paradise. By the time we were done with our time in Rome, the restaurant staff knew us as the Midwestern kids lining up for dinner at 5 (How wholesome of us.) who dutifully tried every pasta on the menu. We even got to meet Mr. Alfredo himself.
These days, I don't really get to enjoy pasta. Pasta has never been the same for me post-European adventures (ugh, that sounds much snootier than I mean it to), and on the occasional time where I veer off of Paleo and do have some pasta, I usually regret it. My system has adjusting to not consuming grains, so when I do have them, I pay dearly. Its just not worth feeling sick over, the belly bloat, or the brain fog. Instead, I've created this pasta alternative, which I enjoy immensely, although it definitely doesn’t fully replace the whole thing. I love making a huge batch of this and packing it in advance for lunches- its a great afternoon pick-me-up.
A trick I learned while traveling in Italy, is that the pasta sauces there are made with both butter and olive oil. This creates a richness in the taste, feel, and complexity of the sauce. I've applied that knowledge here, and fresh basil here is an absolute necessity. Bon appetit!
Paleo Basil Spaghetti
- To soften your squash, you need to roast your squash in the oven. First, ventilate your squash (if you can) with some fork holes. (No exploding squash here, please.) Place your squash on the top rack in your oven at 375 degrees. Roast for about 40 minutes to soften. (I've found that it takes approximately 20 minutes per pound of squash.)
- Remove from oven and let cool. Slice open lengthwise, remove the seeds, and scoop the meat of the squash away from the hard outside layer. (An ice cream scoop works very well.) Try to get as much of the meat out as possible. All that should be left are the seeds and the firm skin when you're done. As you scrape the squash, the squash should be stringy like spaghetti- this is where this squash gets its name.
- Break up any clumps of squash that you may have so the result is all stringy goodness. Set aside.
- In a skillet, heat your bacon fat, onion powder, chili flakes, 1 tbsp. of olive oil, and 2 tbsp. of basil. Heat until just shimmering, add garlic, and brown slightly. Add in ground beef and brown. Once brown, remove immediately from heat and set aside.
- In a large pot, heat 2 tbsp. basil, parsley, remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil, and butter. Once melted, add squash and cook until soft, but still slightly firm. Stir frequently to ensure that the sauce is coated with the herb butter mixture. Add in content from ground beef skillet. Stir until incorporated.
- Pour in tomato pasta sauce, cover pot, and let simmer for 10 minutes.
- When done, squash should be soft but not limp. Remove from heat, and garnish with the rest of your fresh basil and freshly ground pepper.
For the spaghetti sauce, you can use your own homemade sauce if you would like, or use your favorite store bought version. I use store bought when I don't have any homemade sauce on hand. This is just fine, but make sure that it is Paleo friendly- i.e. no added sugar, limited preservatives if you can find it. My favorite is Trader Joe's Basil Tomato (Can you tell I love Basil?). Its not 100% Paleo because it does have added dairy, but it does have limited preservatives, and is all organic.
If you want to increase the amount of "pasta" you make, start by adjusting the size of the spaghetti squash first. Make sure to pay attention to the increased roasting time you will need for the squash in the initial steps.
Steps 1-3 can be done ahead to allow for faster meal prep time. Spaghetti squash refrigerates well once roasted, but make sure to not let it sit for more than 3 days. Any more and it starts to release some of its water, making it mushy.