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Friday, August 7, 2009

A Test in Meal Conversions: Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

There was a time in my life when my family knew me as "the starch queen," due to my frequent consumption of pasta (and rice, and potatoes... you get the idea). Now, however, I get the vast majority of my carbs from fruits and vegetables, and rarely, if ever, eat pasta.

So that's why the idea for this particular meal conversion was so fun for me! My goal was to come up with a tasty meal that would be a healthy replacement for a down-home pasta dinner.

Since it's always fun to come up with a packaged or restaurant meal to replace, I'm going to compare my version to the Pizza Hut Spaghetti with Meat Sauce (did you know they serve pasta now?).

Serving size: 467 grams
Calories: 600
Fat: 13g
Saturated Fat: 5g
Cholesterol: 8mg
Sodium: 910mg
Carbs: 98g
Fiber: 9g
Sugars: 10g
Protein: 23g

So for my replacement, instead of using spaghetti, we're going to cook some spaghetti squash. For the sauce, instead of using a jar of pre-made sauce, we're making a simple sauce of our own. And finally, the meat in our sauce will be ground turkey, not ground beef.

Here's the ingredients and how to make it:

1 small spaghetti squash, halved (lengthwise) with seeds and pulp removed (like a pumpkin) -- yields about 600g cooked
1 pound lean ground turkey
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 8oz cans tomato sauce (no salt added variety)
Seasonings of your choice (oregano, basil, garlic, onion, parsley, etc.)
1 TB olive oil
Shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Drizzle the spaghetti squash with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 30-40 minutes. While the squash is cooking, make the sauce.

Brown the ground turkey in a pan on the stove. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes more. Remove the meat and onion from the pan. Pour two cans of tomato sauce into the pan.. Stir in seasonings to taste. I used garlic powder, onion powder, basil, oregano, and parsley. Let simmer on the stove for 10-20 minutes. Add back in the meat and onion.

Run a fork lengthwise through the inside of the squash and the strands should come out fairly easily. Place them into a casserole dish. Top with meat sauce and shredded Parmesan cheese.

Bake squash and sauce in the oven for 15-20 minutes. The recipe makes four servings. Serve and enjoy!

So here's how the nutritional statistics came out:

Calories: 302
Fat: 13g
Saturated Fat: 2.5g
Cholesterol: 80mg
Sodium: 630mg
Carbs: 23g
Fiber: 5g
Sugars: 11g
Protein: 26g

How do the two compare? Well, my version is about half the calories for a similar serving size, but has the same fat content. Where do all those extra calories in the original come from? CARBS, of course! My recipe has 1/5 the carbs of the original. Protein is still high, and we've reduced the sodium and saturated fat. All good things!

And how does it taste? I loved it! It's not exactly like eating spaghetti, but if you're someone who generally likes squash and zucchini, I'm guessing you'll
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l like the taste, and find it an acceptable replacement for the original. However, I will say that if you, like my husband, are not a fan of squash, this meal may not be for you. (He did report that he enjoyed the sauce, though!)

Please let me know if you try it, and what you think!


  1. I like to make something similar with zucchini. I cut the zucchini into "penne-esque" strips, saute them until they're still crisp and toss them in homemade tomato basil sauce and top with parmesiano reggiano. It's delish!

  2. I just saw Alton Brown on the View today, October 7, 2009. He's lost 50 pound in about 6-7 months and was teaching us how to make an eggplant parmigiana style meal with salted, planked eggplant that was then trimmed into noodle-like strips. He tossed the eggplant into a very hot frying pan with some olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes. He added tomatoes...and then my kidling needed me so I didn't see the rest but you can at http://theview.abc.go.com/blog/altons-good-eats-eggplant-pasta-and-waffled-roesti. Sounds like a winner and I can't wait to try yours and his.

    Growing up in an Irish-Italian home, eating a lot of pasta and potatoes, every little way I can sneak my grandmother's style sauces (which alone were fairly healthful) back into my life without wrecking my training program is a good thing.

    I'm from New Orleans originally and have already converted many traditional recipes. I've got recipes for a great gumbo and an awesome jambalaya, drop me an email if you'd like them.