Comfort Food Redux: Spaghetti Squash and Baked Falafel

A new and delightful take on spaghetti and meatballs.

This post comes from our FP contributor, Lexie Smith!

In addition to making food, I make drawings. I flutter between the two vocations like a schizophrenic hummingbird, flitting from one energy source to another. A few days ago, amidst bread kneading and egg poaching, I took a large sheet of watercolor paper and a velvety lithograph pencil and drew a muted scene of soft fluid lines, intermingling and adjoining and hurling off from one another. There was just a wink of intention — the kind of drawing that, only upon stepping away from it and coming back a few hours later, turning it sideways once, then twice, and then doing so again an hour after that, could I really see it. But, I wasn’t entirely satisfied — it didn’t fill me up. So, I endeavored to turn the very elements that defined it, its fat curves and obtuse angles and languid composition, on their backsides. On another piece of paper, with the same pencil, I drew the image with hard, determined lines that squared and pierced and clipped at their ends. The two drawings together made one that I could actually stomach, and came only from the recognition of their opposites.

There are times when the best new inventions are just the inversion of something you’ve already got.

So, let’s say that spaghetti and meatballs, a classic emblem of comfort food, is that thing we’ve got. Based on our equation, I want something that maintains those fundamental principles but is made up of something altogether different. Spaghetti squash looks just like its pasta namesake, but the definition of it is basically the reverse — instead of a string of slippery, starchy dough, we have a vegetable that is light, bright, born from the dirt and made up almost entirely of water. Instead of heavy golf balls of ground meat we’ve got baked falafels — the most savory hunks of herby legumes you could possibly smush into spheres and put in your mouth.

Call this redo what you will: sacrilege, wannabe, revelatory, reprehensible — I call it an answer. And dinner.

Baked Falafel
Yield: approximately 20 1.5“ balls
Fear not the cottonmouth falafel! These bake up crisp and firm on the outside with a moist interior. Once baked you can refrigerate the extras and eat throughout the week.

1 ½ cup dried chickpeas
½ onion (approx. 90g), chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
¼ cup chopped parsley

1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted (optional; I used black)
3 tbsp brown rice or chickpea flour
½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp sumac
¾ tsp ground coriander
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp lemon zest

Start your falafel prep ahead of time.
Soak the garbanzo beans for 24 hours. Cover them with a couple inches of water, and check every 4-8 hours to make sure they are still submerged. Add more water throughout as necessary. Keep in mind that they will expand about 3x in volume. Once ready, the beans should break when pressed between your fingertips.

When ready, combine the chickpeas, onion, garlic and parsley in a food processor. In batches, pulse and blend until the mixture is fine but not pasty or sticky.

Transfer to a large bowl and mix in the remaining ingredients with a wooden spoon.

Using slightly damp hands (latex gloves come in handy here), carefully pack the mixture into golf ball-sized mounds. (The dough might feel a bit crumbly but don’t sweat it, they will bake up plenty firm.)

Press onto a parchment lined sheet tray and refrigerate for at least an hour or until you are ready to bake.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Brush the balls gently with olive oil.

Bake for 20 minutes, turning halfway through.

Spaghetti Squash
Serves 4-6, generously

1 medium to large spaghetti squash
2 tbsp mild harissa
1 large tomato, chopped
½ small red onion, finely chopped

To taste and top:
olive oil
coarse salt
black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F (or bake coinciding with the falafel).

Cut the squash in half lengthwise and use a spoon to remove the seeds. Rub the flesh with a bit of olive oil and place the two halves face down on a sheet tray. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until you can easily use a spoon to scoop out the strands inside.

Remove the stringy flesh and place in large bowl. Add harissa and drizzle generously with olive oil. Season to taste with plenty of coarse salt and cracked black pepper. Toss and then mix in the chopped tomato.

Divide between four or six bowls and top each with 2 to 4 falafels, or whatever you prefer. Drizzle each bowl with kefir and olive oil, and top with the chopped red onion, fresh parsley, a squeeze of lemon and a bit of sumac.

Find Lexie on Instagram and via her website!

More healthy recipes from the BLDG 25 Blog.

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I looove Falafel, and I’ve never eaten them in pasta (although it’s no proper pasta, isn’t it?). I’m very curious about that spaghetti squash though!

Totally! Great idea
This sounds amazing; it’s exactly what I was looking for!

I like the idea of using falafel balls as meatballs! Must try!