Who needs pasta? This rich and flavorful spaghetti squash with meat sauce tastes as if you've been cooking it for hours, but it's ready in less than an hour.
And while not identical to the real thing, it's close enough, so there's no need to feel deprived.
Much like cauliflower, I find that spaghetti squash is a lifesaver when you crave certain comfort foods.
So while cauliflower is the perfect substitute for rice, spaghetti squash is a wonderful replacement for noodles. This dish is so rich and comforting, I truly don't miss the real thing when I make it.
Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe. This is an overview - please scroll down to the recipe card for the exact measurements:
Spaghetti squash: I use a small 2-lb. squash in this recipe.
Avocado oil: A great cooking oil because it has a neutral taste and a high smoke point.
Lean ground beef: I use a mixture of 85% lean and 15% fat. Leaner than that will be less flavorful, in my opinion.
Onion: I use a small yellow onion and chop it in the food processor because I'm lazy.
Kosher salt and black pepper: If using fine salt, you should reduce the amount you use, or the dish could end up too salty.
Marinara sauce: Try to find a sugar-free sauce. Rao's is a good brand.
For garnish: Parsley and grated parmesan.
Making spaghetti squash with meat sauce is easy! Scroll down to the recipe card for detailed instructions. Here are the basic steps:
You start by cooking the spaghetti squash in the microwave and raking a fork back and forth to create the noodle-like strands.
As an alternative to using the microwave, you can bake the spaghetti squash in the oven.
Next, cook the ground beef and onion with salt and pepper.
Stir in the marinara sauce and simmer for 20 minutes.
Ladle the meat sauce over the squash noodles, top with parsley and parmesan, and serve.
Since I use a store-bought marinara sauce in this recipe, I make sure to use a high-quality sauce - it will obviously have a big impact on the final result. My favorite is Rao's. Its list of ingredients is very clean and it contains no added sugar. I especially like the spicy arrabbiata sauce.
Frequently asked questions
Not exactly, but it's close. While spaghetti squash is not exactly the same as real pasta (don't we all wish it was), it is very tasty and it does give you an experience quite close to that of eating real noodles.
I don't recommend that. An 85/15 blend is truly as lean as you should go. Extra-lean ground beef is too dry.
Cooking spaghetti squash in the microwave can result in mushier results than roasting it in the oven. To minimize mushiness, it's important not to overcook the squash.
If it does end up overcooked, simply place the squash halves, cut side down, on a clean towel for a few minutes. This will help absorb some of the liquid.
Here are a few ideas for you for varying the original recipe:
- You can make this recipe with zucchini noodles. Simply cook them seperately (skip the parmesan), then top them with the meat sauce.
- When cooking the ground beef and onions, you can add ½ cup of sliced mushrooms or fresh baby spinach leaves. Don't add too much, or the sauce will become watery.
- For a richer sauce, you can stir in ¼ cup of room-temperature heavy cream to the finished sauce.
This recipe makes a complete meal of meat and vegetables, so you don't really need to serve it with anything. But sometimes I like to add a side of green vegetables such as steamed broccoli or even this simple arugula salad.
You can keep the leftovers in the fridge, in an airtight container, for up to 4 days. Reheat them in the microwave, covered, on 50% power. You can also reheat them, uncovered, in a 300°F oven.
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Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce
- 1 small spaghetti squash (2 lb.)
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- 1 lb. lean ground beef
- 1 small onion chopped (4 oz)
- ½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups marinara sauce
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Prepare the squash:
- Pierce the spaghetti squash in a few spots with a sharp knife. Microwave 5 minutes; turn to the other side and microwave 5 more minutes, until soft to the touch. Let stand for 5 minutes to finish cooking.
- Using a sharp knife, cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Allow it to cool for 5 minutes, until easier to handle. Scoop out the pulp and seeds from the center, then rake a fork back and forth to remove strands of the flesh onto a serving bowl. Set aside.
Cook the sauce:
- Heat the oil in a large, deep saucepan over medium-high heat, about 3 minutes. Add the beef, onions, salt and pepper. Sauté, breaking up the beef as you cook, until beef is no longer raw, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the marinara sauce. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes.
Finish the dish:
- Ladle the meat sauce over the squash noodles, top with parsley and Parmesan, and serve.