Spaghetti Squash Arrabbiata

Ina Garten’s most recent cookbook, Modern Comfort Food, was published in October. The first recipe I made from the book was for roasted sausages, peppers and onions because those ingredients were on sale at a local grocery store that week. But I really had my eye on another recipe from Garten, a.k.a. “The Barefoot Contessa,” that I wanted to make when I had the ingredients on hand — spaghetti squash arrabbiata.

Prior to the pandemic, I recalled an episode of Garten’s on Food Network in which she made arrabbiata sauce, flavored with one whole cup of peeled garlic cloves! Planning ahead, before I returned the library book so the next eager patron could enjoy Garten’s recipes, I wrote down two recipes for the future — arrabbiata sauce and spaghetti squash arrabbiata.

Garten writes that the arrabbiata sauce recipe is inspired by chef Missy Robbins and her two Brooklyn restaurants, “Lilia” and “Misi.” I wanted to create an authentic-tasting Italian dinner without leaving our home, and I was pleased with the results. The sauce is spicy and definitely tastes homemade. And as Garten says in her introduction to the recipe, “It has a stunning amount of garlic in it but don’t worry; the flavor mellows as it cooks.”

I chose to enjoy the sauce over spaghetti squash, adding premade Italian chicken meatballs. If you or your family prefer more traditional spaghetti, don’t worry — I also boiled pasta for my husband and the sauce was delicious on that as well! Plus, as Garten writes, leftover sauce can be stored in the refrigerator, covered, for up to a week.

Arrabbiata Sauce Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup good olive oil
  • 1 cup whole peeled garlic cloves (2 to 3 heads of garlic)
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, drained
  • 2 teaspoons whole fennel seeds, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup dry Italian red wine, such as Chianti
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup julienned fresh basil leaves (I didn’t have fresh basil on hand, so used dried instead.)

Directions:

  1. In a medium (10 to 11-inch) pot or Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset, warm the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the garlic has softened and is lightly browned. Watch closely so it doesn’t burn.
  2. Meanwhile, place the tomatoes in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until roughly chopped. With a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic to the food processor and pulse again just to chop the garlic. (A blender works too, which is what I used.)
  3. Pour the tomato mixture into the pot with the oil; add the fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, wine, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Off the heat stir in the basil and taste for seasonings.

Spaghetti Squash Arrabbiata Ingredients:

  • 2 medium spaghetti squash (about 3 pounds each)
  • 6 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed in your hands
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Arrabbiata sauce
  • 8 ounces fresh bocconcini (small mozzarella balls) or sliced salted fresh mozzarella (I omitted this completely.)
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated Italian parmesan cheese
  • Julienned fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Cut each squash in half lengthwise, starting by plunging the tip of a large chef’s knife into the side of the squash, then banging the squash and knife on a cutting board to split the squash in half. Remove the seeds and place the squash, cut sides up, on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil. Divide the olive oil among the 4 halves, then brush the cut sides of the squash with the oil. Sprinkle the squash with the oregano, 4 teaspoons salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Roast for 50 minutes to one hour, until the flesh is tender and the edges are beginning to brown.
  3. Reheat the Arrabbiata Sauce in a large pot. Scoop out almost all of the spaghetti squash (leaving a 1/2-inch border of squash in the shells) and transfer it to the pot with the sauce. Toss well. Spoon the mixture back into the shells and distribute the bocconcini on the 4 squash halves. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the squash is hot and the bocconcini are melted. Sprinkle with the basil and serve hot.

Modern Comfort Food is available upon request here, or by calling Whitehall Public Library at 412-882-6622.

Spaghetti Squash Arrabbiata
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