I’m not ready to give up on summer tomatoes and corn. Yet the acorn and spaghetti squashes, sweet potatoes and broccoli I’m seeing at the farmers’ market look so appealing. So I’m finding dishes like this recipe for spaghetti squash with fresh tomato sauce and meatballs that sort of straddle the seasons. We get the best of both worlds, no?
So, let’s start with the meatballs. Over the weekend, I made a batch of Giada de Laurentiis’s orzo-and-ricotta meatballs from a recent issue of Food & Wine. You could use your own favorite meatball recipe, or pick up some prepared meatballs from the butcher shop. I refrigerated a half-dozen meatballs for this dish, and tucked the rest into a zip-top bag in the freezer.
I couldn’t resist the gorgeous spaghetti squash I spotted at Findlay Market last weekend, so that became the foundation of this recipe in lieu of traditional pasta. I’ve found that the easiest way to cook spaghetti squash is to boil it in a big pot — it’s quick and foolproof, resulting in perfectly al dente strands of sunny squashy goodness.
Finally, I made up a quick fresh tomato sauce using grated tomatoes. I spotted the grating technique for tomatoes in a magazine recently, and decided to give it a try. Grating the tomatoes on the large holes of a box grater results in a fresh tomato pulp that cooks into sauce quite quickly. The prep and cooking time for the sauce total about 25 minutes, so this recipe makes an easy weeknight dinner (especially if you prep the meatballs ahead). Flavor the sauce with sprigs of whatever fresh herb you happen to have on hand.
Quick fresh tomato sauce recipe
(makes about 4 cups)
Cut 4 large tomatoes in half and remove the seeds. Grate the tomatoes on a box or Microplane grater with large holes into a large bowl — watch those knuckles! (You'll have about 4 cups of pulp.) Grate 1/2 a medium red onion (about 1/3 cup); press 2 large garlic cloves through a garlic press. In a large saucepan, warm a glug of olive oil over medium heat. Reduce heat and add the onion; cook, stirring frequently, until it softens, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add a pinch of salt. Add the tomato pulp and 2 or 3 sprigs of fresh herb (I used basil, thyme and tarragon). Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cook until the sauce thickens slightly and the flavors blend, about 20 minutes. Remove the herb sprigs, season well with salt and pepper (for a kick of smoky heat, add a generous pinch of Aleppo pepper or pimenton).
To serve the spaghetti squash with meatballs and fresh tomato sauce
Prepare the tomato sauce; while it's cooking, put a big pot of water on to boil for the squash. Boil the squash, covered, for 20–30 minutes, or until the tip of a small paring knife easily pierces the flesh. See this post for more details on the best way to cook spaghetti squash. When you remove the squash to cool before cutting it open and removing the delicious, spaghetti-like strands, add the meatballs to the sauce to warm them through. Toss the squash with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Place a pile of spaghetti squash on each plate, then top with the meatballs and sauce; finish with a big sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.