Tag Archives | fall recipes

Pork Ragu with Spaghetti Squash for Low Carb Keto Lifestyle

Recipes for a Low Carb Keto Lifestyle

The cooler temperatures of Fall seem to cry out for those robust, hearty flavors in our dishes, but this favorite season also begs for dishes that show off the autumnal color palate.  A hearty Italian ragu sauce coupled with golden buttery squash speaks to the robust flavor profile, as well as the visual yearning for the beautiful fall colors.  Ragus are typically combined with pasta, but the substitution of spaghetti squash for pasta makes this a perfect dish adapted to a Slow Carb, or Low Carb Keto lifestyle.

low carb keto lifestyle

pork ragu with spaghetti squash

Smoking Tomatoes:

Smoking Heirloom Tomatoes

Smoking Heirloom Tomatoes

I’ve been smoking my tomatoes in the Bradley Smoker that my husband gave me last year for my birthday.  Tomatoes are allowed on a low carb keto lifestyle, but smoking them just ups the flavor profile a bit.

After they are smoked I place them in a freezer bag and freeze them to use in sauces over the winter.  It is so wonderful to thaw out that bag and smell the rich aroma of smoked tomatoes.  They don’t seem to lose any of the smokiness in the freezing process.  This year I am also taking the smoked tomatoes and preserving them with sugar and vinegar as a “shrub syrup”.

See this post for more on how to use the Smoked Tomato Shrub Syrup in cocktails.

The Ragu recipe below uses the smoked tomatoes straight from the freezer.  You can use regular canned or fresh tomatoes instead of course, and it is still wonderful.  If you want to add the smoky flavor without the smoked tomatoes, I would try adding a little smoked sea salt or even some liquid smoke.  It is a wonderful dish however, even without the smoke!


Pork Ragu & Spaghetti Squash for a Keto Lifestyle (a recipe)

Serves 4


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped (and seeded) sweet red bell pepper
  • 1 1/2 lb ground pork or Italian sausage (I used a mix of sweet and hot Italian sausage)
  • 2 cups smoked tomatoes with juice (or 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes)
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar (leave out if on slow carb diet)
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp smoked sea salt (optional: if using, decrease amount of kosher salt to 1/2 tsp)
  • 1 medium spaghetti squash


  1. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Either roast in 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes or cook in the microwave for about 10 minutes.  If roasting, brush the tops of the squash with a little oil so it doesn’t dry out.  If microwaving, I just turn the squash flesh-side-down on a plate and microwave for 10-12 minutes.  Click here for a more detailed way of cooking it in the microwave.  Either way, just cook until it is tender enough to easily stick a fork in it.  Leave it in the microwave or oven until ragu is done.
  2. While the squash is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the onion and cook for about 3-5 minutes, or until translucent.  Add the garlic and cook quickly (30 seconds).  Add the bell pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Increase the heat to medium high and add the ground pork.  If using Italian sausage, cut the casings open and spread out the sausage throughout the pan, chopping it with your spatula to break it up.  Cook until the pork is browned, about 5 minutes
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes (or smoked tomatoes), balsamic vinegar, salt and sugar and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes (depending on how hungry you are)
  5. Scrape out the flesh of the spaghetti squash with a fork or spoon onto a plate (use a potholder to hold the squash if it is still hot).  Spoon the ragu sauce over the squash or serve the squash on the side with plenty of butter and salt and pepper.

I like to call this the Low Carb Hamburger Helper 🙂  It’s really quick and easy but much better than the Hamburger Helper I grew up on!  Perfect for the Quick and Easy weekdays of a low carb keto lifestyle.



Plum Amaretto Fruit Butter – Comfort Food Extraordinaire

Fall is a favorite time of the year for so many people.  Here in Minnesota it’s still fall, but you can feel winter nudging fall gently out of the way.   The shorter cooler days always make me anxious to do two things (in this order):   1) get in the kitchen and make steamy pots of something and  2) curl up on the couch with a good book, piping hot tea and some variation of comfort food.

Old-fashioned fruit butter - sheer comfort food

These autumnal urges recently led me to a Harlan Coben novel and Plum Amaretto Butter slathered on some hearty rye bread.  It’s especially comforting to have my favorite things around when hubby is on the road.

Fruit butters are a very old way of preserving the fall fruit harvest and they seem to be a uniquely American preserve, with fruit curds, fruit pastes and the like favored in European countries.  Plum butter might be the exception, as there is a Polish classic spread called powidla sliwkowe which is very similar to a fruit butter and is used on bread, in sauces, and as a glaze on pork or duck.  In general, three things distinguish a fruit butter from jams, jellies, compotes and other fruit preserves.

First is texture.  Fresh fruit is simmered for hours with a little sugar and maybe some juice until it softens enough to puree it.  It is then further simmered with spices and flavorings until it forms into a soft spread with a texture similar to butter (hence the name).

Second is sugar content.  Fruit butters generally have half as much (or less) sugar than a jam.  Jellies and jams need a certain amount of sugar to generate the chemical reaction with acid and pectin needed to form a gel (unless you use a low-sugar pectin or boil the jam for so long that the sugar content ends up being concentrated and actually results in a deceptively high sugar content).

Third is a spice combination.  Most fruit butters are made and eaten in the cool fall and winter months, and they are usually made with rich wintery aromatics like cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg.  I like to add vanilla beans and I very often will add a little flavorful “substance” like Amaretto, Grand Marnier or maybe Apple Brandy.

Fruit butters are easy to make and easy to modify to your tastes, as they are very forgiving (another difference from a jam or jelly).  Just be warned, they can be very messy, you need to stick around and keep an eye on them so they don’t scorch, and they take quite a bit of fruit (although the fruit can be quite ripe).   Here is a recipe for the plum amaretto butter that I just ran out of….



9 cups plums (prune plums and damson plums are great), pitted and halved

2-3 cups sugar

1/4 –  1/3 cup Amaretto

1 orange, both zest and juice

1 vanilla bean

1 bay leaf

1/2 -1 tsp allspice

1/2 – 1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

  1. Simmer halved plums in oven roaster or on stovetop until soft (some people will use a crock pot which works, but just takes a long time).  If they are dry you can add a little water.
  2. When soft, puree.  I use a stick blender but you could also put them in the processor (messy business though)
  3. Put the puree back in the pot over med-low heat and start adding the sugar, a cup at a time until it is the sweetness that you prefer.  Stir in each cup of sugar until well-blended and taste, keeping in mind the Amaretto will be a little sweet.
  4. Zest the orange into the mix and add the orange juice and the bay leaf and spices.
  5. Simmer the mix over medium heat until it starts to thicken (this usually takes about an hour on the stove, less in the roaster oven because it is spread out over a large surface, and may take several hours in the crock pot).
  6. Adjust spices, sugar and Amaretto as you go.  Taste-adjust-taste-adjust….
  7. This is how you will know it is ready:  take a spoonful of the fruit butter and put it on a clean plate.  Drag your finger through the middle of it and if it doesn’t run back into the groove made by your finger, it is done.  Ladel into jars and either water bath or refrigerate.

Enjoy!  (and tell me your favorite mystery novels…I’m running out of authors).




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