Spaghetti squash is arguably the most intriguing of all squashes. Its skin, which ranges from dark ivory in color to a yellowish-orange, is solid when raw, like other squash; after it’s cooked, however, is when this winter squash becomes wondrous. When the flesh is scraped away from the shell, it forms strands that are remarkably similar to spaghetti, with a mild pasta-like flavor.
It’s the best of all worlds: a low-carb, healthy, fiber-based spaghetti. Because of its resemblance to the long, stringy variety of pasta, spaghetti squash is also referred to as vegetable spaghetti or noodle squash.
The Health Benefits of Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti squash is nutritious, delivering a large dose of vitamin A, folic acid, potassium, and beta carotene. Potassium helps maintain proper muscle and nerve function, so it’s useful for people with high blood pressure. Spaghetti squash is also rich in minerals, such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc, as well as in vision-aiding “B vitamins,” like riboflavin, niacin, and thiamin. Regular pasta and spaghetti squash both have low amounts of fat, salt, and fiber; however, adding to the squash’s health value is the fact that it averages only 42 calories per cup, while pasta has over 100 calories. Spaghetti squash is richer in protein than pasta, and has significantly fewer carbohydrates.
Buying and Preparing Spaghetti Squash
For the uninitiated, spaghetti squash can be a little intimidating. It’s heavy and hard and not like any other type of squash you know. But soon you’ll find that this is a squash to embrace. The spaghetti squash you should be looking to buy in the produce section will be pale yellow in color, and can be stored at home at room temperature for a few weeks. You should avoid buying unripe ones, which will be covered with green blemishes.
Once you have successfully purchased your spaghetti squash, it can then be baked, boiled, steamed, or microwaved in order to make it edible. It can be served plain, with or without sauce, or added to a variety of dishes, such as soups and stews. The seeds can be roasted, similar to pumpkin seeds.
The classic way to create vegetable spaghetti from spaghetti squash is simple. Just cut the squash in half, lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Pierce the hard skin a few times and place the squash – flesh side down – in a glass dish or on a baking sheet with a little water. Bake the two squash halves at 375 degrees F, for about an hour or just until you can pierce it easily with a knife. Let it cool and scrape a fork across the baked flesh to separate it into pasta-like strands. The “spaghetti” shouldn’t be mushy; rather, it should retain a slight crunch.
Spaghetti Squash Can Easily Become a Meal
Cook spaghetti squash and toss it with some divine garlicky butter or sprinkle with parmesan cheese, and you have a meal that will rival any that you’ll fine in a pasta-filled Italian restaurant. Or, for an easy, delicious and healthy entrée or side dish, all you need to add to the spaghetti squash is a fabulous sauce and you’re good to go.
Roasted Spaghetti Squash in a Rose Sauce
Preheat the oven and prepare the squash as directed above. Scrape the spaghetti-like strands into a bowl.
- 1 clove garlic, chopped fine
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 4 fleshy white mushrooms
- ½ bell pepper
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 tsp oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tomato, diced
- 1/4 cup Gouda cheese
- Melt the butter in a large frying pan and stir in the chopped garlic until blended.
- Sauté the mushrooms and peppers in the garlic butter until slightly tender.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, yogurt, and spices, and simmer until the vegetables are cooked (only a few minutes).
- Stir in the diced tomatoes, the Gouda cheese, and the cooked squash.
- Serve hot – as a light main dish or a substantial side.
Spaghetti Squash: The Ultimate Pasta Understudy
If you’re looking to further “disguise” the spaghetti squash’s healthy persona and sell it to your pasta-loving family, the following recipe follows the lines of classic Mac ‘N Cheese and will fool them all.
Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash and Cheese
- 2 medium spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeds removed
- 5 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon mustard powder
- 2 cups milk (any type – skim, 1%, 2% or whole)
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F, and prepare squash as per above directions. Cool and shred the flesh with a fork, and transfer to a bowl. Do not discard the emptied-out shells of the squash; set them aside. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
- In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add flour and mustard powder and stir with a whisk until it turns into a thick paste.
- Slowly pour the milk into the pan while whisking constantly. Bring to a boil, then simmer for a few minutes until thickened, stirring frequently.
- Add the cheddar cheese, salt, and pepper and stir until smooth.
- Stir the cheese mixture into the large bowl with the spaghetti squash and toss until combined. Divide evenly into the four squash skins.
- Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Add the bread crumbs and stir until all the bread crumbs are moistened and the butter is absorbed. Sprinkle on top of the spaghetti squash.
- Bake about 30 minutes, until filling is bubbling and topping is browned. Serve immediately.
Spaghetti Squash: To Know It is to Love It
Now that you’ve read about the amazing virtues of the spaghetti squash, it’s time to run out and buy it – or wait until it is in season. Like other hard-shelled winter squash, spaghetti squash is harvested in the early fall; however, it keeps for months in cool storage, making it available throughout the winter and spring. Enjoy this hardy versatile squash and turn it into delicious, healthy comfort food – yes, there really is such a thing!