Spaghetti squash bolognese is hearty comfort food at its best. A thick and flavorful meat sauce is the perfect accompaniment to spaghetti squash for a healthier take on this Italian dinner recipe.
I am ALL about Sunday Sauce, but sometimes though it's nice to have something a little quicker on the menu while still enjoying the heartiness that meat sauce can provide.
So, sorry Sunday sauce! I've started mixing bolognese sauce into our repertoire. Specifically in the form of spaghetti squash bolognese. And it's even lightened up, at that.
Reasons to Love This Recipe
- I'll be honest that I'm not spaghetti squash's #1 fan as it can be bland, but I absolutely love it in this dish. The bolognese sauce dominates and brings all the flavor you need for a super satisfying yet slightly-lightened-up main dish recipe.
- The bolognese sauce is super thick and grabs onto the spaghetti sauce strands wonderfully.
- I've included two ways for cooking the spaghetti squash: traditional oven roasting and the Instant Pot. With the Instant Pot, there's need to exert a ton of effort into slicing through a raw squash - win!
- Spaghetti squash: A spaghetti squash somewhere between two and three pounds works well for this quantity of bolognese sauce. If cooking it in the Instant Pot (instructions below), be sure it will fit in the round insert.
- Beef: I like to cook with 80/20 ground beef, though you can choose your preferred lean/fat percentage. There's a tip below on easily removing out some of the liquid fat released as the beef cooks, so percentage isn't super important.
- Crushed tomatoes: While plain crushed tomatoes work just fine, for an extra boost of Italian flavor I like to use crushed tomatoes with basil flavoring.
- Wine: You'll want to use a red wine that's on the drier side for this spaghetti squash bolognese. I'm partial to Cabernet Sauvignon, but Merlot or Pinot Noir will work, too.
- Carrots and Celery: These add a bit of sweetness and background flavor to the sauce. They're in small bits so they totally blend in to the finished product.
- Garlic: Freshly minced or pressed garlic is recommended for a punchier flavor.
Preparing the Bolognese Sauce
- Heat olive oil over medium heat, then start sauteing the onion for 6-7 minutes. It'll be turning golden.
- Add the carrot and celery, then give everything a big stir to combine. Cook for 2-3 minutes more, then add the garlic and a portion of the salt and pepper. Cook for a couple more minutes.
- Next add the beef, breaking it up into small crumbles as it cooks. Keep sauteing until the beef is entirely browned and fully cooked. Skim off any excess fat (if you want) at this time.
- Deglaze the pan with wine, making sure to scrape up any of the fond (burnt bits stuck to the bottom of the pan) and work them into the mixture. This brings so much flavor! Let the wine partially reduce some while everything cooks for the next 3-4 minutes.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, herbs, and the rest of the spices to the pan and stir everything up.
- Let the sauce simmer for around a half hour, or until it has thickened to your liking. Bolognese is a pretty thick sauce.
Cooking the Spaghetti Squash
While bolognese sauce is obviously amazing over regular pasta, it adds a nice touch to spaghetti squash. You can cook the spaghetti squash any which way you like, but I'm partial to cooking it in the Instant Pot.
- Put the trivet in the bottom of the Instant Pot and pour in one cup of water. Pierce the spaghetti squash all over and then pop it in whole. A spaghetti squash around 2.5 pounds is usually what I use, and it fits in my 6-quart Instant Pot (Amazon affiliate link) just fine.
- Cook it for 25 minutes on high pressure, let it cool a bit so you can handle it without burning yourself, and then slice in half/remove seeds/break it out into strands.
And there we go! Perfect cooked strands all ready for this spaghetti squash with meat sauce recipe.
- To make quick work of the grating the carrots and celery, you can cut them into large segments, place them in a food processor, then pulse until they're all in small bits.
- The ground beef will release fat as it cooks. A baster can be used to suck up and discard any amount of excess fat without disturbing the other ingredients in the pan.
- The direction in which you slice open the spaghetti squash will determine the length of your strands. Cutting it lengthwise from end-to-end will result in shorter strands, while slicing it in half down the middle (recommended, like in the photo above) results in longer strands.
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, I’d love for you to leave a star rating in the recipe card and/or a comment review below!
Spaghetti Squash Bolognese
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 large onion diced
- 1 large carrot grated (see note)
- 1 large celery rib grated (see note)
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- ¾ teaspoon salt, divided
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 pound ground beef (80/20 preferable)
- ¾ cup dry red wine
- 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
- 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 4 large basil leaves chopped
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ⅛ teaspoon dried thyme
- Pinch of allspice
- 1 2-3 pound spaghetti squash
- Pecorino Romano or Parmesan for serving
To make the bolognese sauce:
- Add olive oil to a large pan set over medium heat. Once heated, add diced onion and cook for 6-7 minutes, then add carrot and celery and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add minced garlic, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and pepper. Stir everything up and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
- Add ground beef to the sauce pan and break it up into crumbles. Cook for 9-10 minutes, or until no pink remains and the beef is fully cooked and browned. Skim off any excess fat you like at this point.
- Once beef is cooked, pour in the red wine and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Let everything bubble and cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Pour in the crushed tomatoes and then add the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, parsley, basil, oregano, crushed red pepper, thyme, and pinch of allspice. Give everything a stir, then let simmer for 35-45 minutes, or until thickened to your liking. Serve over cooked spaghetti squash strands.
To prepare the spaghetti squash:
- Instant Pot: Add the trivet to the Instant Pot and pour in 1 cup of water. Pierce the spaghetti squash all over with a paring knife, then place the whole spaghetti squash on the trivet inside the Instant Pot. Close and lock the lid, and set the valve to "Sealing". Cook on Manual (or "Pressure Cook" in later IP models) high pressure for 25 minutes. Do a quick pressure release and let the squash cool enough to be able to be handled. Then cut it in half and scoop out and discard the seeds. Use a fork to work out the strands and serve.
- Oven: Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C) and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Trim the ends off of the squash and cut it in half lengthwise. Scoop out and remove the seeds. Place both halves of the spaghetti squash cut-side down on a baking sheet, then roast for 25-30 minutes, or until the insides are tender and 'scrape-able' into strands.
- An easier way to skim off excess fat from the beef without disturbing the whole pan is to use a turkey baster. Simply move the contents of the pan to one side, tilt the pan in the opposite direction, and suck up grease with the baster to discard.
- For time-saving purposes, I begin the process of pressure cooking the spaghetti squash once the bolognese sauce is simmering in its last step.
- Slice open your spaghetti squash along the short side through the middle (not lengthwise through the ends) to yield longer strands.
Base bolognese recipe adapted from Food Network
The family LOVED this! My two 7-year olds ate it while "yumming" the whole time. Saved this to my favorites for definite repeat.
I'm so glad your family liked it! Thanks for letting me know how it went. 🙂