Spaghetti squash is a vegetable I never even heard of until I was student teaching a few years ago. My cooperating teacher loved to cook, too, and we would often share recipes with each other. One day she told me she was going to make spaghetti squash for dinner.
Unfortunately, my first (incorrect) thought was that she was going to make spaghetti with squash in it. She then explained to me how it is actually a vegetable that, when cooked, contains spaghetti-like strands that you remove and use in place of spaghetti. A vegetable that passes for spaghetti? It sounded too good to be true, and I remember I stopped at the store on my way home to pick one up that very evening.
Here are some nutritional facts regarding why you might want to swap spaghetti squash for pasta:
- 1 serving of pasta usually has around 200 calories. 1 cup of spaghetti squash is only 40!!
- It is high in vitamin B6, vitamin C, fiber, manganese, and potassium.
- It is gluten free and a great choice for people trying to watch their carb intake.
- It is fat free!
- It is very low in cholesterol.
- After purchasing, it can stay fresh stored at room temperature for up to 3 months!
There are many options for cooking spaghetti squash. I have tried all of the following these are my personal opinions:
Option #1) Pierce spaghetti squash several times with a fork; place in a 9×13 baking dish. Microwave, uncovered, at High 10 minutes. Cut in half lengthwise and discard seeds. Place spaghetti squash, cut side up, in baking dish; add water. Cover tightly with heavy-duty plastic wrap, turning back one corner to allow steam to escape. Microwave at High 12 to 14 minutes or until tender, turning squash every 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. This is a great option if you wanted the squash for dinner and didn’t plan ahead. Just be careful…my microwave cooks it a lot faster than the suggested times, but every microwave is different. I suggest checking on it every few minutes until it’s done.
Option #2) Cut the squash in half and roast it cut sides down. This is nice because it cuts down on the amount of time the squash has to cook. This method worked okay, but the squash did get a little mushy where it was laying on the pan. It’s also really difficult to cut through a raw spaghetti squash!
Option #3) Place the squash in a slow cooker with a little bit of water for 4 hours on low. I did NOT like this option because the squash became very mushy on the bottom where it was in direct contact with the slow cooker. I do not recommend this method but it does work if you are in a bind.
Option #4) Pierce the squash with a knife several times all over. Preheat the oven to 400F. Bake the squash on sprayed baking dish for 55 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of squash. This is the easiest and best method! The squash comes out perfectly every time. Simply cut the squash in half when it comes out of the oven (this will be very easy to do because it will be soft), and allow to cool. When it is cool enough to handle, remove the seeds with a spoon. Then, use a fork to separate the “spaghetti” strands.
So, what can you do with spaghetti squash? The answer is simple: anything you would do with regular pasta. I now substitute spaghetti squash for pasta for me every time I make my husband a pasta dish. He isn’t as big of a fan of the squash substitute, so I reserve some of the sauce from his pasta dish and add it to my spaghetti squash. It works out perfectly! I have not tried this yet, but I have seen some spaghetti squash lasagna recipes lurking around the internet that I am curious to try. You can also make baked spaghetti squash as you would baked ziti.
The only downside to using spaghetti squash is that it does require some planning because it will take close to an hour to cook in the oven (unless you use the microwave option). Often times I will start the spaghetti squash ahead of dinner just to ensure it will be ready when the rest of the meal is done. Remember, even though it bakes for an hour, there are only maybe 5 minutes of active cooking involved. During the hour it cooks, you are free to cook other things or relax with a good book. I encourage you to try to make this if you haven’t before! I’ll be posting specific recipe ideas in the future as well!