Delicious/Nutritious: The magical, misunderstood spaghetti squash
Spaghetti squash is a magical vegetable, able to go from a hard-fleshed beast to a light pile of noodles in just under an hour. Plus 100 grams of spaghetti squash has just 31 calories. So, if you like warm pasta dishes as the weather gets cooler, try subbing in this squash and spending your pasta calories elsewhere.
I completely underuse spaghetti squash. I forget about it, as I tend to forget most squashes, since my family is firmly anti-squash. Admittedly, gourds do not usually thrill me either, so it’s easy to neglect them in my weekly menu planning.
Sarah suggested spaghetti squash and I gave an enthusiastic “sure!” and pretended I’d know just what to do with it. But not using it often, I didn’t have a crack recipe to just whip out of my old Rolodex.
I ruminated for weeks, considering options, trying things out, reading, and I got really fancy in my mind. A little practice produced a lot of nice results, and the people that I feed were all happy. “Why don’t we have this more often?” they’d ask, as if they haven’t turned up their noses to many a squash or zucchini recipe in the past.
I got a bit overwhelmed. Spaghetti squash can do anything! Like another rice, or potato, it can be the basis for many a flavor palette. The world is your spaghetti squash.
I had millions of ideas, some rather elaborate, and it got down to the wire for me. The deadline for this recipe approached, and I still hadn’t settled on the perfect application. I considered Cajun things, fried things, a Greek spaghetti squash salad (which, by the way, is amazing), but at the end of the day, I settled on simplicity.
I wanted to show off the squash and the versatility of it as a main dish or a side dish, and so I didn’t want to overplay the other ingredients.
Roasted Vegetables and Spaghetti Squash
1 spaghetti squash
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1/2 red onion
8 cloves garlic
1/4 cup Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Cut the squash in half the long way and remove the seeds. Give it a good coating of olive oil and a liberal salt-and-peppering. Roast it face down on a cookie sheet for about 45 minutes, or until the flesh begins to brown a little.
Meanwhile, cut your peppers and onions into strips and clean your garlic cloves. Line a small casserole dish with aluminum foil, and toss the vegetables and garlic in. Roast them along with your squash, about 40 minutes, until soft and the onions begin to brown.
When the squash is ready, use a fork to scrape it into long “noodles.” It’s so easy and so pretty — also rather fun. Put the squash in a medium-sized serving bowl.
Use a fork to mash the garlic cloves a little, and toss them, along with the peppers, in with the squash. Give everything another hit of salt and pepper if you think it’s necessary.
Sprinkle with Parmesan and roughly chopped fresh basil, and serve. This can be a side dish or a main dish, and would probably be delicious with a little smoked sausage mixed in as well.
Also, you can sit on the couch and read your book during most of the process, which is extra good in my world.
I’ll admit that I was a bit terrified of spaghetti squash a lot longer than I needed to be. It wasn’t a vegetable I’d ever had growing up. And though I’d heard about it as a substitute for pasta long ago, it took me several years before I felt like buying it wouldn’t turn into a waste.
Which is silly, because it’s so simple to make.
But if you’ve ever cut one open, you might understand the reservations I felt looking at the hard flesh and going, “Is this really going to turn into noodles?”
The answer is yes. And they taste great. Definitely not too “squashy,” if you aren’t a fan of the other winter squashes.
I love to add mushrooms to my spaghetti squash because they seem so hearty and delicious when combined with the light noodles. The recipe below takes that combination and adds in pretty Swiss chard for an extra nutrient boost.
Spaghetti Squash with Oyster Mushrooms and Swiss Chard
1 2-4 pound spaghetti squash
1 4-ounce container oyster mushrooms or 4 ounces mushrooms of choice, roughly chopped
1 bunch Swiss chard, ends trimmed and leaves sliced into small ribbons
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red onion, diced
2 cups marinara of choice
Coconut oil or olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 F. Slice spaghetti squash length-wise and scoop out the seeds. Rub the outer rim of squash with a bit of oil and place both halves face down on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for 45 minutes or so.
When the squash has just a few minutes left, begin heating about a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add in the onion and garlic and saute for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, add in the mushrooms and Swiss chard, stirring constantly to avoid sticking. Once the chard has started to wilt, add in marinara sauce and continue to stir. Heat the sauce through.
Once the squash is cool enough to handle, scrape out the “noodles” with a fork. Top with heated mushroom-chard red sauce. Serves 3 to 4.
— Megan Stuke (Delicious) is a working mom, a practical cook and an impractical hostess. Sarah Henning (Nutritious) is a writer, blogger, vegetarian and mom. You’ll usually find her eating kale.