Spaghetti squash with puttanesca sauce and mushrooms

SpagsquashWhen you want to throw together a dish that’s quick, easy and nutritious, few things beat spaghetti squash.

Squash is an ingredient you can keep onboard for a long time before the mood strikes you to cook it. A squash will last one to three months, but go by the expiration date on it, if there is one.

Here are some good tricks for cutting a squash safely and easily: If you are going to microwave the squash, pierce it first to release steam. Then microwave five to 10 minutes, depending on size, before cutting it in half.

Alternately, you can bake it. A 3-pound squash would bake at 375 degree for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a knife. After the squash is cooked, scrape the seeds out with a spoon and discard, then loosen the “spaghetti” strands with a fork.

Compared with pasta, spaghetti squash is a winner. One cup of squash is only 31 calories, versus 200 for a cup of pasta, and has 10 grams of carbohydrates compared with 40 grams in pasta.

My favorite topping on squash is puttanesca sauce, which you can make from scratch or order (with 48 hours’ notice) from Pasta and Company, which makes a glorious puttanesca. The company has stores in Seattle’s University Center and in Bellevue.

In case you are an avid cook and love to make your own slow-cooked sauce on a cold and wintry day, I’ve included a recipe below. Be forewarned, though, that the aromas drifting out of your galley may lure people to your boat — the sauce is named for ladies of the night, and legend has it they would place pots of the fragrant sauce in their windows to lure customers in.

The crowning glory of this meal is sautéed mushrooms. In the Pacific Northwest, we are lucky to have many varieties of mushrooms, so I take full advantage of that when I see them at the farmers market or in the supermarket. I usually pick an assortment of crimini, button and shiitake mushrooms.

Use a mushroom brush or dampened paper towel to clean the mushrooms, and cut off the stems. Sautee the mushrooms with a little garlic powder (or one clove of freshly chopped garlic, if you prefer) in a tiny bit of butter and olive oil. I like to sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese on top of the mushrooms while they’re cooking.

Completeddish

Spaghetti Squash with Puttanesca Sauce and Sauteed Mushrooms

1 spaghetti squash, microwaved or baked (see above)
Puttanesca sauce from Pasta and Company or homemade (see below)
2 cups mixed mushrooms – crimini, button and shiitake, cleaned and sliced
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. oil
Garlic powder
Parmesan cheese

Microwave or bake the spaghetti squash, following directions above. In a sautee pan, melt butter and oil. When melted, add sliced mushrooms, coating with oil and butter, and sprinkle with a little garlic powder. Sautee five minutes or until mushrooms are cooked through.

To assemble, scoop strands of spaghetti squash onto your plate in a heap, like pasta. Top with heated puttanesca sauce. Place 1/2 cup of mushrooms on top and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serves two to four.

Homemade Puttanesca Sauce

This recipe comes to you courtesy of Mark Bittman of the New York Times. It yields three to six servings and takes about 30 minutes to make.

2 tbsp. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, lightly smashed and peeled
3 or more anchovy fillets
1 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup pitted black olives, preferably oil-cured
2 tbsp. large capers
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste

Warm 2 tablespoons oil with garlic and anchovies in skillet over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is lightly golden.

Drain tomatoes and crush with fork or hands. Add to skillet. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Raise heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes break down and mixture becomes saucy, about 10 minutes. Stir in olives, capers and red pepper flakes. Simmer for five to 10 minutes or until flavors blend.

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