Classic Italian bolognese with a healthy twist… my Healthy Turkey Bolognese and Roasted Spaghetti Squash has turkey stand in for beef, and spaghetti squash stand in for pasta in an otherwise traditional bolognese!
I like the phrase “eating mindfully.” What does this phrase bring to mind? Mull it over in your mind for a moment or two… So often, meal time is just another box that must be checked off our “to-do” lists. I love this quote by Catholic author Mary DeTurris Poust in Cravings: A Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-Image, and God:
“So often, even when we stop to say a blessing before a meal, we’re mentally preparing to spoon some pasta or potatoes onto our plates. We’re not usually focused on the present moment, simply placing ourselves before our food and entering into the still, slow space where eating is done for eating’s sake and not something we do simply to get to the next thing on our list.”
In relegating food consumption to a place in our lives of lowest priority, we miss an opportunity to feed more than just our physical bodies. Eating mindfully is good for your physical health, but I would submit to you that eating mindfully benefits your mental, and even your spiritual health, as well. Ms. DeTurris Poust goes on to say:
“How we prepare our food, how we consume our food really makes a difference in how our food satisfies us and shapes the role we give food in our lives. Is it something we stuff in to satisfy an urge or something we savor to feed us physically and sustain us spiritually?”
Like so many other areas of our lives, change is best accomplished incrementally… You might, for example, choose one night a week to prepare a special meal for a loved one. Be deliberate in planning the menu by considering time constraints, your skill level, time to shop and availability of ingredients, etc. In other words, be practical, and don’t set yourself up for failure. Eating mindfully is not synonymous with elaborately, although at times eating elaborately has its benefits as well! With the resources available on the internet, planning the meal and your shopping list doesn’t even require time to peruse cookbooks.
Many websites offer healthy, “meals-in-minutes” approaches to menu planning. MyRecipes.com, a favorite of mine, offers “healthy, family-friendly recipes in 45 minutes or less,” 15-minute recipes, 5 ingredient recipes, etc. The website features a shopping list tool and the ability to keep your own personal recipe box. If you’re looking for inspiration to begin eating mindfully, you might want to give it a look!
I cook all but 1 or 2 nights of every month. Cooking feeds my soul… I am certainly mindful of the calories and nutritional value of the ingredients and meals I prepare. This is not to say discipline rules 100% of the time. 😉 Last night, discipline was nowhere to be found as dinner at Andersen casa was a Runny-Egg Topped BLT (bacon, arugula, and sun-dried tomato) Risotto. Sunday nights are very special, as my sous chefs are our two middle sons. They added twice as much bacon and parmesan to the risotto as their mother would have liked. Evan fried the eggs in bacon fat! Oh my, it was delicious! I have to decide whether the recipe has a place on my mostly health and fitness driven pages…
I digress… Most of the time, when planning meals, I stick pretty closely to a lowfat, lean proteins, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and complex carbohydrates diet. A dish that I have perfected over the years is bolognese with pasta. We have dear friends that keep us supplied with amazing elk meat. The slow-cooked meat sauce is fabulous with fresh pasta, and even more amazing in a Roman-style lasagna bolognese. However, dishes such as these don’t fit our “diet” – such as it is. We only occasionally indulge in refined pastas and white rice based dishes. We do love the rich, slow-cooked flavor of the bolognese, so I was determined to come up with a similar dish that wouldn’t be such a guilty pleasure. My quest was successful, culminating in this recipe for Healthy Turkey Bolognese and Roasted Spaghetti Squash. The time required for this dish makes it a better choice for a weekend day. The slow simmering and reducing of the sauce results in the same rich flavor we love in a beef, veal, or elk based sauce. One of our sons actually prefers it. I hope you will give it a try!
This recipe starts with mire poix. This mixture of finely chopped carrots, celery, and onion is key. I use a Cuisinart food processor, but if you are patient, a very sharp knife works just as well. It is important that the vegetables be very finely chopped, as you want all the flavor, but not the chunks… Use a heavy dutch oven; enamel-coated cast iron with a cover is my preference. After the vegetables are finely chopped, add olive oil to your dutch oven, and bring it to medium-hot. Sauté the vegetables over medium-high heat until they begin to brown, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic, and continue to stir until the garlic is fragrant; avoid browning the garlic. When the vegetables are beginning to brown, add the ground meat. I like to use a potato masher to break up the meat more quickly. Continue breaking up the meat and stirring until well-combined and browned.
De-glaze the pot with white wine. At this point, you should have some browned bits that have caramelized on your pot. Add the wine to de-glaze. Allow the mixture to simmer and reduce until the liquid is nearly gone. Add the stock or broth and bay leaf. Reduce heat to a low simmer and partially cover with the lid to allow steam to escape. When the stock is reduced by about half, add the tomatoes and milk. Again, allow it to simmer until reduced by half. Taste for seasoning.
This process requires 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Don’t rush the process. 🙂 While you are making the sauce, prepare the spaghetti squash. Using a really sharp, strong knife, good cutting board, and a strong arm, slice the squash in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds from the center of each half. Drizzle the squash with olive oil. Roast on a cookie sheet in a 400° oven for about 40-50 minutes – depending on size. It should be tender when poked with a fork. I use “convection roast” on my oven, and reduce the time to 30-40 minutes on 375°. When the squash is tender, use a fork to remove the strands of flesh from the outer skin. Place in a bowl, and reserve until about 10 minutes before you wish to serve.
To bring it all together: In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and minced garlic. When garlic begins to sizzle, add the squash and fresh herbs (if desired.) Using a wooden spatula, stir the squash to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce to low heat until you are ready to plate. Place about a cup of spaghetti squash on the plate, top with the sauce, garnish with freshly grate parmesan and chopped Italian parsley. Enjoy! This dish really is worth the effort.
- Use a food chopper or processor to finely chop your vegetables unless you have the time and patience to chop all those veggies very, very finely! Be careful to not over-process.
- A potato masher is handy for breaking apart the ground meat.
Lastly, I apologize for the infrequency of recent posts, and the poor quality of my photos! I am working on both… I am pretty amazing in the kitchen, and a pretty decent writer, but when the opportunity arises to do work that results in a paycheck, it takes precedence. 🙂 I am struggling to keep this up, and would love to hear from my readers that would encourage me to keep at it! Best,
- 2 carrots, cut in chunks
- 2 stalks celery, cut in chunks
- 1 large onion, cut in chunks
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 pounds ground turkey, see notes below
- 1 cup dry white wine, chardonnay, pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc
- 4 bay leaves, fresh if possible!
- 3-4 cups good quality stock, chicken, beef, , turkey, veal
- 1 cup milk
- 1 26-28 carton or can of tomatoes, I love Pomi in the carton - diced
- fresh ground salt and pepper, to taste
- parmesan, for garnish
- Italian parsley, chopped (for garnish)
- 4-5 pound spaghetti squash
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoons fresh herbs, finely chopped (oregano, basil, thyme)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Add carrots, celery, and onion to the bowl of a full-sized food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. If you are patient, and your knife skills are good, of course you can chop by hand!
- In a heavy dutch oven, heat olive oil to medium high heat. Add the minced vegetables. Saute until onions are translucent. Add garlic. Stir to combine.
- Add the ground meat. Using a potato masher or wooden spoon, break up the meat, and stir until it begins to brown. You want to see some nice caramelization on the pot.
- De-glaze with white wine. Add bay leaves. Simmer until most of the liquid is gone.
- Add stock. Reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook until liquid is reduced by half.
- Add milk and tomatoes. Cover pot about 3/4 of the way with the lid. Cook on a low simmer for 1-2 hours. Add additional stock as needed.
- Sauce should be thick, but not dry.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Garnish with shaved parmesan and chopped parsley.
- Preheat to 400 degree oven (375 on convection).
- Slice spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Be careful! They are very hard, and knife will resist.
- Scoop seeds from the center of both halves.
- Place cut side up on a cookie sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil.
- Roast until tender and barely beginning to brown - about 45-60 minutes depending on size (20% less in convection ovens.)
- Allow to cool until you can handle the squash. Using a fork, remove the flesh from the skin to a large bowl. Set aside.
- When dinner is 10 minutes out, heat a bit of olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the garlic. Stir until fragrant.
- Add the strands of spaghetti squash. Stir 5-6 minutes.
- Add the fresh herbs, salt and pepper. Check for seasoning.
- Top the spaghetti squash with a generous scoop of bolognese. Garnish with shaved parmesan and chopped parsley. Enjoy!
I typically use a 50/50 mixture of ground turkey and turkey Italian sausage. I also make this recipe with ground elk, pork, beef, and a combination of lean ground meats. Feel free to vary it.
Remember, bolognese is a meat sauce, not a tomato sauce.
You can certainly serve this over pasta, but if you're looking to lower carbs and calories, spaghetti squash is awesome!
I do usually add about 8 ounces of chopped cremini mushrooms. This is optional. If you choose to use them, add with the mire poix. Mushrooms are totally optional.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 400 Total Fat: 22g Carbohydrates: 14g Protein: 33g