When I was growing up, I thought my mom was the healthiest eater I knew. There was no soda, no white bread, no Cocoa Pop cereal, and certainly no Twinkies or Ding Dongs, as much as I may have begged for them. I'll never forget one dish she served where she put a plate in front of me of what looked like pasta with tomato sauce. I dug in, but it was not pasta, it was spaghetti squash. The disappointment! It certainly couldn't replace pasta in my little 6-year-old mind, but I do remember beginning to really like it after it was about halfway gone. That food memory has become emblematic of how my mom taught me to eat healthily, and how I still try to use those lessons today, although my mom would say I'm much more hardcore in my food choices for my children than she ever was.
So when I saw this recipe in Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Suppers, I kind of jumped on it. It required more than the usual effort, but it was well worth it. As the boys kept checking on the dinner's progress, they would ask me what was cooking. "It's like pasta," I told them with a smile. "You're going to love it."
Once we all sat down ready to eat, the boys didn't hesitate to dig in. I was a little shocked. And not only did they finish it, they kept asking for more and more. Nico, in fact, polished off three full plates, and actually looked disappointed that it was all gone.
I guess it's in the genes, Mom, it's in the genes. xo
4 thick slices stake country bread, crusts removed
1/2 to 1 cup whole milk
2 tbsp. chopped marjoram or oregano
3 tbsp. chopped parsley
1 garlic clove
1 cup ricotta
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup finely diced onion
1 or 2 eggs as needed
sea salt and pepper
olive oil for frying
8 cups cooked winter squash strands, baked at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes
Tomato sauce (I used a jar of my favorite kind)
Put the bread in a pie plate and pour milk over it. If it's on the soft side, use little milk, if it's hard, use more. While chopping everything else, return to the bread now and then to move it around, squeezing the wet pieces over the drier ones. When all the bread is soft, squeeze out excess milk. Put it in a food processor and pulse just enough to break it up into corse crumbs, then turn it into a bowl.
Chop the herbs with the garlic and add them to the bread along with the cheeses, onion, and 1 egg. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper. Mix everything together–your hands are the best tool–then fry a little batter in some olive oil until golden and taste it for salt. You'll also be able to tell if it's too dry (add another egg) or too wet (add more bread crumbs). Shape the dough into spheres or ovals, using about 2 teaspoons each.
Film a cast-iron or nonstick skillet with olive oil. When hot, add the morsels, taking care not to crowd them, and cook over medium heat, shuffling the pan frequently so that all surfaces brown.
Just before serving, drop the baked squash strands into boiling salted water and cook until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Strain, then toss with a a little butter or olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
To serve, nap each plate with tomato sauce, heap the "spaghetti" over it, add the fritters, and garnish with a little minced parsley.