When I first shared a photo of this recipe on Instagram, I commented that it tasted “better than pizza.” A friend of mine took issue with that description.
“I’m willing to test your theory,” she said. “But if it doesn’t have cheese, it’s not pizza.”
The idea of paleo pizza, or paleo comfort food in general, probably seems like an oxymoron to a lot of people. Paleo salad? Of course. But since most of the carby, cheesy, sweet stuff we turn to when we want to indulge is off limits in the paleo world, most people assume going paleo means saying goodbye to comfort food altogether.
Well, I’d like to to dispel that myth.
As someone who has lived in lots of different places and survived on lots of different cuisines, one thing I’ve learned about comfort foods is they change!
For example, when I was living in India and feeling homesick, I ate a Subway sandwich for dinner every night for a week. In Vietnam, giant bowls of pho made me feel at home. And on campus, a big bowl of Kashi Go Lean was my de-stress meal.
As my surroundings, emotional states and health status have changed throughout my life, so have the foods that have comforted me. Of course, there will always be those meals from childhood that hold a special place in my heart, but in my opinion, the classic, uncomplicated flavors and textures that we find satisfying and indulgent come in lots of different forms.
Once real food becomes the norm, things like spaghetti squash, Italian sausage and tomato sauce begin to replace the cheese and pepperoni we thought we could never give up. It’s true!
And that brings me to this delicious recipe, which pairs the classic flavors of pizza with the textures and richness of casserole.
It may not have cheese, but I’m telling you, the way it balances gooey, crispy, meaty and saucy gives it a comfort factor that’s pretty darn satisfying.
The spaghetti squash threads absorb the eggy, tomatoey sauce beautifully, creating an irresistibly gooey center. And if you give it enough time in the oven (or pop it under the broiler for a minute or two), you’ll get a crispy, salty crust around the edges that brings back all those joyous pizza vibes.
No matter what comfort food looks like to you, one thing is for sure: this certainly does NOT taste like health food.
- 1 medium spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise
- ½ cup water
- 1 lb. grass-fed ground beef
- ½ lb. Italian pork sausage, casings removed (or ground pork)
- ½ lb. spinach
- ½ medium sized leek, finely chopped (or onion)
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups crap-free tomato sauce
- 2 tsp. dried Italian herbs
- 2 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Place spaghetti squash cut side down on a baking sheet along with ½ cup water. Bake for 30 minutes, or until flesh can be easily scooped out with a fork. Reduce oven temp to 350 degrees F.
- While squash is cooking, heat a large skillet to medium high. Add leek and ground meat, and start breaking meat up with a wooden spoon. Season with salt, pepper and cumin.
- Once browned, transfer meat and leek mixture to a bowl using a slotted spoon. (Save the juices!)
- Return skillet to burner and add spinach. Saute until just soft, about 2 minutes.
- Combine sauteed spinach with ground meat mixture and mix well.
- In another medium mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and tomato sauce.
- By this point, the squash should be cool enough to handle. Use a fork to remove the seeds and scoop the noodle-like flesh away from the skin. Place “noodles” in 9x13 baking dish.
- Top squash with meat and spinach mixture followed by tomato sauce and egg mixture. Stir well to combine and smooth into an even layer.
- Bake for 40-55 minutes or until a slight crust forms and the center doesn’t jiggle.
- Let rest for 5 minutes before digging in.
If deciding to go paleo feels like a decision to give up the satisfaction of indulgent, satiating food, it shouldn’t. The foods that comfort us are always changing, and they won’t go away with going paleo. Plus, wouldn’t it be great if comfort food left your insides feeling comfortable, too?
Be well (and comfortable),
What’s your ultimate comfort food — paleo or not? How have your tastes changed over the years?