If you're trying to eat more low carb foods by substituting other things for pasta and rice, you should definitely get to know spaghetti squash. But if you couldn't care less about low carb eating, don't run away! Spaghetti squash might be a darling of the no-pasta club, but it's also amazing in its own right and we're going to show you how to cook spaghetti squash the easy way.
Spaghetti squash is so tasty, a perfect canvas for so many different flavors, and it's fun to make. Cooking spaghetti squash might seem intimidating at first, but we're going to walk you through the whole process. With a little bit of prep time, you'll be making tasty veggie noodles for all kinds of recipes.
What is Spaghetti Squash?
Spaghetti squash is a type of winter squash (as opposed to summer squash like the zucchini that overrun your garden in August) that takes its name from the interior of the squash after it is cooked because the squash strands look like long, stringy noodles.
This squash is a powerhouse when it comes to nutrition. For under 50 calories for a cup of cooked squash, you get potassium, beta-carotene, folate, fiber, zinc, iron, niacin, B6, and vitamins A, C, and K. And yes, it is low carb.
You can find them at farmers markets starting in the late summer and early fall, though most grocery stores will have them all year round now. Good spaghetti squash will be a bright, light yellow. Pick one that's heavy for its size, without any soft spots or cracks.
How to Cook Spaghetti Squash in the Oven
The best way to cook spaghetti squash is to roast it in the oven. Roasting brings out an almost nutty flavor in the squash; it also removes extra moisture from the vegetable, so that your "spaghetti" has a firmer texture.
To start, you need to safely cut your spaghetti squash in half with a large sharp knife and something to hold the squash in place while you make the cut. Roll up a dish towel and place it against one side of the squash to keep it from rolling, and if your knife gets stuck in the squash, you can also use the towel to give you some protection and leverage as you work the knife out.
You can also cook spaghetti squash in the microwave for a minute or two to soften it before cutting, just remember to poke a few holes in it first. Don't try to cut through the stem; it's too tough. Once you get to that point, just pull the squash halves apart.
You can cut the squash lengthwise or crosswise (for longer strands), and once you have your halves, scoop the seeds out just like you do when you carve a pumpkin.
Take the two squash halves and lay them on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Drizzle olive oil over the inside of the squash and season it with salt and black pepper. Place squash cut-side down and roast it in a 400-degree oven.
The total time it takes to roast the squash depends on the size of your squash. Start checking it after 30 minutes, but most likely it will take closer to 45. It's done when you can easily stick a knife through the outer shell of the squash, or when you poke it, it easily pushes in. Flip the halves over; the squash should be caramelized on the cut edges. Let the squash sit until it cools.
There's another way -- my personal favorite way -- to cook spaghetti squash, and that's simply to toss the whole thing in the oven. All you have to do is poke several holes with a chef's knife into the squash, place it on a baking sheet or in a baking dish, and roast for 45-60 minutes. Once it's done, the squash has to cool before you slice it open.
It's much easier to cut the spaghetti squash this way, though it may take a little longer cook time. It's also a little trickier to get the seeds out, but if you wait until the squash cools completely, it's not difficult.
Uses for Squash Noodles
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When you're ready to make spaghetti out of your spaghetti squash, here's what you do. Take the squash halves and use a fork to shred the squash into long strands by running the fork over the squash. Then use the spaghetti-like strands in whatever dish you're cooking, or just sprinkle some Parmesan cheese, olive oil, garlic and basil over the squash noodles.
You can use spaghetti squash anywhere you would use pasta or rice. It makes a great base for marinara sauce and pesto. You can use it in spaghetti and meatballs, casseroles, and mac and cheese, as well as for stir fry or pad thai.
For a fun presentation, you can even shred the noodles and leave them in the shell. Place your sauce or toppings right on the squash noodles, and you've got a cool serving dish along with a great meal.
One tip: the spaghetti squash strands can get mushy if they retain too much moisture. Don't overcook. Spaghetti squash freezes perfectly, but make sure you drain the spaghetti squash strands completely before you put them in the freezer so that they don't turn soft when you thaw them.
You can also roast the spaghetti squash seeds just like you do pumpkin seeds. Clean them off, toss them in a little bit of oil and spices, and roast until crispy.