How to Cook Spaghetti Squash
Ways to Cook Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti squash goes by many different names: winter squash, vegetable spaghetti, noodle squash, and gold string melon. Whatever you call it, this winter squash is low in calories, can be used as a replacement for pasta, and the seeds can be roasted and seasoned and served separately or as an addition to squash recipes. (See also: Butternut Squash Recipes.)
Personally, I like to serve spaghetti squash as plain as possible. When I find really good spaghetti squash at a farmer’s market or directly from a farmer, I trust that the flavor will be good enough pretty much all on its own. An easy way to cook spaghetti squash is sometimes the best way to prepare it.
How to Choose Spaghetti Squash
Since picking a good spaghetti squash is as important as cooking it well, here’s a quick guide to selecting the best squash you can find.
The best spaghetti squash have shiny and pale skin. As for the color, I try to pick the spaghetti squash that is closest to the color of a ripe lemon. When you find spaghetti squash that is either white or green, don’t buy it. I hate unripe squash more than I hate unripe fruit, and white and green-colored spaghetti squash was simply picked too soon.
The weight of a spaghetti squash is equally important. When I buy spaghetti squash, I always make sure to pick the squash up and “weigh” it in my hand. Good squash feel really heavy, especially when compared to their small size. Dense squash cooks better and tastes better in my experience.
Don’t buy spaghetti squash that are too big, too light, or too miscolored. I tend to buy pieces of spaghetti squash that weigh in between 3.5 and 4.5 pounds. Squash outside this weight range are usually old, chewy, and even bitter or tasteless. I also avoid squash with bumps, black spots, cracks, or “bruises.”
When you get your spaghetti squash home, stick it in the fridge ASAP. Remember, squash is perishable, so don’t keep it around for more than four or five days, and don’t wash or prep the squash until you are ready to cook it.
How to Cook Spaghetti Squash in the Oven
The simplest and tastiest recipe for ripe spaghetti squash is a basic oven roast. You’ll start by cutting the squash in half lengthwise. You need a heavy sharp kitchen knife to do this right, and be careful as the shape of the squash makes it really easy to slip off the cutting board.
The seeds and strings inside the squash should be scooped out like a pumpkin, leaving two round pieces of squash with indentations in the center.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. A good hot oven is crucial to roasting any veggies, especially a dense veg like spaghetti squash.
Drip a tiny bit of olive oil into the squash and rub it around the flesh with your fingers. Don’t overdo the oil or it can burn or smoke in the hot oven.
Season your squash to your tastes. Personally, I sprinkle on sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. If I’m feeling adventurous or if the squash isn’t exactly in season, I’ll throw on a little paprika, but SIMPLE is the name of the game for this recipe.
Place the squash (cut side DOWN) in a baking dish. When the oven is heated to 400 degrees, slide the squash in. Roast is for between 35 and 45 minutes or until the flesh is tender and changes color. Serve with butter or a little more olive oil.
Cooking Spaghetti Squash in the Microwave
Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, and place the cut side down on a microwave safe dish. Cover the whole thing with plastic wrap. I always leave a steam vent–otherwise the wrap will “pop” open in the microwave and could stick to the squash itself.
Cook the squash in the microwave for ten minutes, being sure to turn the squash every two minutes if your microwave doesn’t have a spinning plate.
I don’t use the microwave method if I can help it. Oven-roasting gives the squash a special flavor that you can’t replicate in a microwave. If you’re in a hurry, the microwave saves you about half an hour of cooking time, but doesn’t allow you to bake the seasoning into the flesh.
Making Spaghetti with Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti squash is so named because the flesh can be prepared in such a way that it looks like spaghetti noodles. For a low carb and gluten free (not to mention delicious) alternative to spaghetti noodles, you can turn your squash into noodle like strings.
Cook spaghetti squash according to either the oven or microwave method above. Flip the squash so that the flesh side is facing up. Be careful, as the squash is usually hot and I always burn my fingers flipping it over.
Grab a dinner fork, the larger the better, and start to scrape the flesh from the rind. Scrape around the rind toward the center, like you’re making a leaf pile in the yard. “Fluff” the strands away from the rind as you scrape by lifting the fork up and towards the center of the pile. You’ll start to notice “strands” like noodles.
This whole process takes less than thirty seconds and yields an interesting looking and healthy low carb pasta substitute that goes well in pasta dishes, salads, or eaten all on its own. To impress dinner guests, I like to “flash fry” these strands in really hot oil for a unique and crispy appetizer.
Spaghetti squash is easy to grow in lots of different climates and is a common item in grocery stores and at farmer’s markets. Most people just don’t know what to do when they get their hands on a beautiful spaghetti squash specimen. Selecting a good squash and storing it properly is 75% of the battle. Cooking the squash itself is simple, though cooking spaghetti squash in the oven usually makes me restless.
Serve spaghetti squash noodles with butter, olive oil, or even your favorite pasta sauce. Spaghetti squash is extremely low-carb and tastes divine. Enjoy!