Avoid the Stove Top for Quick Meals
My favorite quick and easy weeknight dinners avoid the stove top. I pop everything onto a pan and into the oven and it takes care of itself in there.
By not having to stand at the stove stirring and adjusting, I end up with time to fold a load of laundry, check my email, play trains with my son, peek-a-boo with my daughter, read Fine Cooking Magazine or even ask my husband about his day.
In this recipe most of the dinner goes on one big pan in the oven at a high temperature. It’s in there for 25-35 minutes, which is a lot of free time on a crazy evening. An added bonus is that the dish is flexible and is happy to stay in the oven for longer. If that game of peek-a-boo or that chat with the hubs wasn’t long enough, let it go on! Turn the oven down to 300ºF and leave everything alone for up to an extra 20 minutes. Just note that before serving you’ll have to re-warm the squash in the microwave for a moment or two.
- 1-1lb bag of frozen pearl onions, defrosted
- 1 lb mild Italian chicken sausages
- 2-14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes, drained
- 8 oz crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced (save time and buy the ones that come pre-sliced)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp coarse black pepper
- 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme (or ½ tsp dried thyme leaves)
- 1-3lb spaghetti squash
- 1 loaf whole wheat bread, sliced
- Preheat the oven to 450ºF.
- Put the defrosted onions on a microwave-safe plate. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 4 minutes. This is to get the cooking process started and to soften them a bit.
- Cut the sausages into ½” pieces.
- On a very large pan (mine is 18″x13″, use the biggest one that will fit in your oven) use a spatula to combine the drained tomatoes, mushrooms, olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme sprigs and the warmed onions (but not any accumulated liquid). Spread everything out on the pan making sure that the sausage pieces are all separated and that they haven’t clumped up in groups.
- Put the pan into the oven even if it hasn’t finished pre-heating. Cook until the juices are bubbling, you can hear some sizzling and the sausage pieces are cooked through and no longer pink in the center, about 25 minutes (roasting for another 10 minutes deepens the flavor. If you want to leave it for longer, at that point reduce the temperature to 300ºF and let it be for another 20 minutes more).
- Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to remove the seeds from the center. Put the squash halves flesh-side down in a single layer on a large microwave-safe plate or in a microwave-safe baking pan or casserole. Add ½ cup water to the plate and cover the squash loosely with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 8-10 minutes, until it gives way a bit to the pressure from the tines of a fork against the peel.
- Leave the squash covered in the microwave until just before you’re ready to eat. It will stay warm for about 20 minutes. When you’re ready, hold the squash with a pair of tongs flesh-side up and use a fork to scrape out the noodle-like meat.
- Remove the sausage pan from the oven. Stir everything up once, remove the thyme sprigs and then transfer the roasted mixture to a serving bowl.
- To serve pile strands of spaghetti squash onto plates and top with the roasted tomatoes and sausages. Use slices of wholesome bread to soak up all the lovely juices.