In honor of this lesser-known squash’s all-too-short season, some ideas for using this easy-to-grow, versatile yellow vegetable.
If you haven’t encountered spaghetti squash before, you’re in for a treat. Be forewarned that spaghetti squashes taste different than the more familiar acorn and butternut. They don’t have that rich, sweet flavor, but this quality actually makes them adaptable to some pretty diverse uses. When cooked, spaghetti squash transforms into long noodle-like strings that can be used in place of pasta without the trouble of spiralizing, that new fad of making “noodles” out of veggies like zucchini and carrots. But be aware that spaghetti squash retains a little of its squash-y flavor and probably won’t fool anyone if you try to pass it off as actual pasta.
However, kids might enjoy helping to scrape out the noodle-like strings and then will be more willing to eat what you make with them (a good thing if you have kids like mine who generally prefer bread products to vegetables). Spaghetti squash allows you to squeeze in some extra servings of veggies if it replaces a pasta main course. A one-cup serving has only about 40 calories, but 2 grams of fiber and a decent dose of potassium (180mg), an important nutrient most Americans fall short on.
How to cook spaghetti squash
Making spaghetti squash is as simple as baking it in the oven (400 degrees, ~40 minutes). I cut mine in half to cut cooking time, but you can also cook it whole if you’re not up to the job of hacking one open (just pierce a with a knife a few times). You can also microwave a whole squash for a few minutes to make it easier to cut; these can be tough buggers, so be careful, whichever method you choose.
I recommend removing the seeds before baking, as you can roast them the way you would pumpkin seeds and make a tasty and healthy snack while your squash bakes. (Instructions at end of post.) This kind of root-to-stalk eating makes the most of your produce purchases, and cooking them simultaneously saves energy.
Bake face down in a baking dish or pan at 400 degrees, roughly half an hour if you cut the squash in half, or an hour if you leave it whole. You can also cook it in the microwave if you prefer, face down in a dish with a little water for about 10 minutes. When it’s tender, scrape out the flesh into a bowl.
I’m all about simplicity, so my favorite thing to do with the few spaghetti squashes I get each fall is just to serve them with marinara sauce and grated parmesan. The little bit of crunch of the squash “noodles” is a nice change from traditional pasta.
Some people enjoy spaghetti squash with nothing but butter and serve it as a side dish, but others have gotten really creative in their uses of this humble squash. Check out some of these more ambitious recipes:
♦ I’m a huge fan of Asian flavors. This spaghetti squash yakisoba from The Pickled Plum was really good!
♦ This clever recipe from The Tasty Kitchen uses spaghetti squash in place of pastry crust in a spaghetti squash quiche.
♦ Here’s a meatball pie if that’s more your thing.
♦ Or try spaghetti squash fritters!
How to roast squash seeds:
- Scoop out seeds and place in a bowl of water (some people use salted water, but it’s not necessary).
- Remove squash strings that cling to the seeds, and drain in a colander, shaking to remove water. Don’t worry about every last string, the strings won’t affect the taste much.
- Allow to dry on a clean towel.
- Spread on a baking sheet and spray with your oil of choice (I like to use this refillable spray pump for jobs like this; alternatively, you can drizzle oil and toss, but you’ll use more oil).
- Sprinkle with a little salt and toss to get the oil and salt evenly distributed.
- Roast on the top shelf above the squash you’re cooking until lightly browned (about 15 minutes), stirring up a little if they’re not cooking evenly. If you hear pops, they need to be removed. Most recipes suggest lower temperatures (300 degrees), but you save energy by cooking your seeds at the same time as your squash. Just put them in as the oven heats up and keep an ear out for those telltale pops.
- Allow to cool and store in an airtight container, that is, if any remain after you’re done sampling them.
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Thanks to Shaun and Janine for inspiring this post!
Let me know what you do with your spaghetti squash. Hope it’s delicious!
Photo credit: www.personalcreations.com via Flickr
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