photograph by Matt Hulsman

Yield: 6 servings.

For the squash:
3 medium spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt

For the meatballs:
⅓ cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup buttermilk (or milk)
1 pound ground turkey
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 large egg
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound baby bella mushrooms

For the marinara:
1 sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cans whole Italian tomatoes
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup fresh basil, chopped
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup freshly grated parmesan

For the squash: Preheat the oven to 375°. Using a large sharp knife, split squash in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds with a teaspoon. Drizzle olive oil inside squash and sprinkle with salt. Place squash face down on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Bake squash for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

For the meatballs: Preheat oven to 375°. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs and buttermilk. Let this sit for 5 minutes, until soft.

In a food processor, finely chop mushrooms. Add the turkey, parmesan, egg, parsley, mushrooms, salt, and pepper to the mixing bowl with breadcrumb mixture. Mix together with your hands until the ingredients are combined, being careful not to overmix.

Use a tablespoon to portion out the meatballs, and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the meatballs are fully cooked through to 160°. Remove from oven and set aside.

For the marinara: Sauté onion in heavy-bottom pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sprinkle with salt. Cook onions for 8 to 10 minutes and add garlic. Cook another 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, sugar, and red pepper flakes. Break up tomatoes with the back of a serving spoon or emulsion blender. Tomatoes should be rough-chopped in size. Cook sauce on medium heat for 20 minutes. Salt to taste. Add chopped basil and stir.

To serve: Scrape inside of squash with a fork and place onto serving bowl or plate. Top with marinara sauce and meatballs. Garnish with fresh basil leaves and/or freshly grated parmesan cheese.

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Lynn Wells is a personal chef with more than 20 years of experience in the food and hospitality industry and a degree in Nutrition Management from UNCG.