I thought the most difficult challenge to giving up grain would be missing pasta, and, to some extent, it has. At first, I wondered what on earth I would eat if I couldn’t enjoy varying forms of pasta with red sauce (or fettucini alfredo or penne tossed with roasted vegetables in the Fall or raw tomatoes and basil in the Spring) a couple times per week. For a long time, I avoided pasta substitutes like zucchini ribbons or spaghetti squash so I wouldn’t trigger the urge, but over the last few months, I’ve started to reintroduce the concept of pasta into my way to eating if not the actual food itself.
Spaghetti Carbonara, which is typically made with cream, bacon and peas and tossed with a raw egg at the end to make a creamy sauce, used to be one of my favorite comfort food meals. It’s easy and quick to make and requires mostly pantry ingredients. Usually, it put me into a food coma. Not long ago, I noticed a recipe for Carbonara with spaghetti squash on one of my favorite food blogs Health-Bent and tucked the idea away in the back of my mind. Tonight, when I found myself cooking for one and with most of the ingredients on hand, I decided it was a great opportunity to experiment.
The result was a heaping mound of food, more than enough to serve three people as a main meal or four with a side salad. I just ate a big bowl by itself and was thoroughly satisfied. The faux Carbonara and squash had the right texture, consistency, and flavor. I might have even enjoyed it more than the traditional version, since it packed a load of nutrition at a fraction of the calories. Overall, I think it was an immensely successful substitution for the original.
Spaghetti Squash Carbonara (gluten free)
- 1 medium spaghetti squash
- olive oil
- 5-6 slices of bacon
- 1 medium onion, small dice
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 medium zucchini, small dice
- 1 C frozen peas, thawed
- 1/4 C white wine
- 1/2 C sour cream (or heavy cream, I had sour cream on hand)
- 1/2 C parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Brush the cut sides of the squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place cut side down onto a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes until you can handle it and shred with a fork.
While the squash is roasting, fry the bacon in a large skillet until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and let drain on a paper towel. Chop with a knife when cooled. Pour off most of the bacon grease, leaving about a tablespoon in the pan. Sauté the onion on medium heat in the bacon grease.
When the onion is soft, add the zucchini and sauté until tender. Stir in the garlic for about 30 seconds to one minute. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and reduce for five minutes or so. Add the peas to the pan and reduce heat to low, stirring occasionally until the squash is done roasting. It’s really important that the squash is hot when added to the pan so that the egg will cook.
Stir in the cream and parmesan cheese. Add the shredded squash to the pan. Pour the beaten egg into the pan and stir quickly to incorporate. Serve topped with more parmesan and bacon.
PS. I still eat regular pasta but only on special occasions, at a really fabulous restaurant or if made at home from scratch. Now, it seems much more luxurious and special, a real treat, instead of an every day occurrence.