Pirate Kitchen

Spaghetti Squash Bolognese

General, Healthy Meals | April 16, 2013 | By


I’m so inspired by my friend Kim. For close to a year she’s been on a weight loss and fitness journey and has lost 85 pounds! I hadn’t seen her since she started and with plans to get together for our birthdays, I couldn’t wait! We met at Ridley Creek State Park and walked… something we have never done together in our 10+ year friendship. The five mile loop at Ridley Creek was my favorite place to walk when I lived nearby in Pennsylvania and I hadn’t been there since my move to New Jersey seven years ago. As our walk began, the initial incline (and ensuing heavy breathing!) didn’t stop us from our chit-chat about music, work, fitness routines and goals and of course, food. We bonded over music when, as a teacher at my son’s preschool/kindergarten, I walked into her classroom and she was playing Radiohead. We both love food all ways:  cooking it, eating it and talking about it! She is an incredibly talented cook and baker and now that she’s in a hardcore regimen, I wanted to find out what changes she’s made to her lifestyle.

In addition to her rigorous workout schedule (up at 3:30 am to get there before work!) and strict diet, I found out that she had not yet discovered the joys of spaghetti squash! Well, I got down to business and started to promote one of my favorite foods. No doubt about it, spaghetti squash is a perfect food if you’re watching your weight and/or eating healthy. I am completely under its spell. Well, just look at it!

Spaghetti Squash

Its yellow smoothness is just beautiful. To think that after a few holes are poked in it and it’s microwaved for 10 minutes you get this…it’s magic. Scrape out the fibrous threads and seeds and you’re left with lovely, delicious golden squash strands. They’re low-fat, low-cal, low-carb, filling and not too squash-flavored like, say a butternut. Sounds perfect to me!


The label on it calls it “the fun squash” and it is fun to pull off the “spaghetti” with a fork. These beautiful, crunchy strands can be eaten a variety of ways:  plain with a little salt, pepper and olive oil, mixed with sauteed veggies or with a delicious tomato sauce. Really, the possibilities are endless. My favorite way to eat this is topped with a play on Nigella Lawson’s Rapid Ragu which I call “bolognese”. I make mine with ground turkey instead of lamb and do go the extra mile to make the caramelized onions for the added layer of flavor. The effort is really worth it. If you prefer not to use Marsala wine, substitute beef broth or maybe a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. And while I do love bacon, I prefer the pancetta in this. The bacon’s smokiness really overpowers everything (of course I tried it with bacon!), but the pancetta (like bacon, but not smoked) adds a great salty porkiness that intensifies the flavors and is readily available in the supermarket either in the deli or already cubed and packaged as shown in the photo below.

A few of the lovely main ingredients…


Caramelized onions… If you take the time to make these, you’ll be pleased with your effort and the extra will keep in the refrigerator for weeks.

Caramelized Onions

I’m inspired and also proud of Kim not only for what she’s accomplished physically, but in addition she’s also achieved balance by cooking and eating her own food on the weekends. I know when I decided to make a huge change in my life, I was hyperfocused on the goal. It was difficult and yes, fearful to soften the edges to allow other things in. It took a while to realize that I could lighten up a bit and not fail or go backwards. I also found that moving and changing opened me to really great and unexpected things. Hooray for you Kim! I see amazing and wonderful things in your future. I mean, just look at us:  we went for a walk.

For another healthy and delicious meal try Wheatberry Salad with Dried Cherries!

Note:  5/28/2013 update – in the original 4/16 post recipe I listed caramelized onions as “1 Cup”.  It should be 1/4 Cup.  It’s changed for future reference, but if you happened to make it with the 1 Cup, it was really good – I did it too!  I prefer to use the 1/4 Cup measurement so there’s enough caramelized onions left for a few more batches.  You choose!! 

Spaghetti Squash Bolognese
Makes about 8 cups or 2 quarts

Bolognese Style Sauce


  • Cooking spray
  • 1 pound ground Turkey
  • 1 Cup cubed pancetta
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 Cup caramelized onions (recipe below)
  • 1/3 cup Marsala wine or substitute beef broth or 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar for the wine
  • 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1/3 Cup red lentils
  • 1/2 Cup water

Spray a large saucepan with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and cook until beginning to crisp. Drain if desired. Add the turkey stirring and breaking it up as it browns. Add the garlic, onions and marsala and cook for a few minutes before adding the tomatoes, lentils and water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.


Caramelized Onions

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups sliced yellow onions (about 2 medium)

Heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the onions, lower the heat and cook, stirring, until the onions are a deep golden brown and soft – about 25 to 30 minutes. Watch the heat and take care the onions don’t burn. Store in a container in the fridge for a few weeks.


Spaghetti Squash

Poke holes in a medium to large spaghetti squash, place on a microwave safe dish and microwave for 10 minutes. Cool enough to handle. Cut the thick stem end off and then cut in half lengthwise. Scrape out the fibrous threads and seeds and then remove the squash strands with a fork. Will keep in a container stored in the fridge for at least a week – if it lasts that long!


Bolognese recipe inspired by Nigella Lawson’s Rapid Ragu

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  1. Teresa Cordelli
    April 16, 2013

    Wow!!! Kristen …. That looks FABULOUS!! Ask Mom.. Bolognese is my favorite but I never had it that way. I will make it when we make the BIG move to Philly. Can’t wait to be near your Mom.

    • Kristen
      April 17, 2013

      Wow I’m 2 for 2 with Teresa favorites! Can’t wait for the BIG move!

  2. Diane
    April 16, 2013

    I don’t love food; I eat more out of need to survive. But this? Oh…this recipe makes my taste buds so very happy!

    • Kim
      April 16, 2013

      Wow! Thank you for writing this story about me/us! I’m glad you’re my friend! I hope we can continue our fitness journeys together. Radiohead!!!!!!

    • Kristen
      April 17, 2013

      Radiohead!! Yes of course! Can’t wait for spin class with you on 5/3-I’m a little scared. You will definitely kick my butt!

    • Kristen
      April 17, 2013

      Diane, I’ll make a food lover (rather than survivor) out of you yet 😉