Monday, January 30, 2012

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (the easy way!)

From Valentine cookies to...spaghetti squash? Well, life is about balance after all, and if you baked, whipped, and frosted along with me last week, you're gonna need some veggies in your life right about now. And where better to start that with a veggie that doesn't feel like a veggie.? I mean, it's all in the name: it looks like spaghetti, it feels like spaghetti, and with a bit of sauce it even tastes like spaghetti...and all for a fraction of the calories.

In my experience, I lot of people are intimidated by spaghetti squash - and that's somewhat understandable; many varieties of squash require hours of oven or stovetop cooking to render them soft enough to be edible, but if you have a microwave, you can prepare a delicious bowl full of spaghetti squash in less that 15 minutes - about the same amount of time it takes to boil a pot of ordinary pasta!

I like to use spaghetti squash as a lower calorie alternative on those nights when Matt comes home craving a vat of starchy noodles. Half a squash will more than fill me - and all for about 40 calories per cup, (versus 200 for pasta!). Just like its namesake, it's a real blank canvas and pairs well with all kinds of meats and sauces. Leftovers will keep for a few days in the fridge or can be frozen.

If you've never tried spaghetti squash before, you're probably pretty excited right now, so let me share some more big news - I actually remembered to take step-by-step photos this time. This may be the first time that's ever happened, so what was going to be a spaghetti squash recipe is now a spaghetti squash tutorial.

Step 1. Cut the squash in half lengthwise (if it still has a stem, you'll want to slice this off first, giving you a nice flat end to stand the squash up on so you can cut it in half).

Step 2. Place one half of the squash cut side up in a microwave safe dish. Add an inch or two of water to the dish (see below).

It's hard to tell, but there's water in there

Step 3. Microwave (uncovered) on at least 80% power for about 15 minutes. I usually get impatient and take it out after about 13 mins, but the actual cooking time will depend on the size of your squash. Remove dish from the microwave (watch out for steam) and allow squash to cool for a few minutes.

Cooked squash looks like this -
and yes, I cook it with the seeds in, but you can take them out beforehand
Step 4. With a spoon, remove and discard the seeds and inner pulp, stopping when you get to the 'solid' flesh of the squash.

See how the flesh is stringy underneath? Don't throw that away - that's your spaghetti.
Just get rid of the slimy, seedy stuff.
Step 5. Using a fork, scrape the flesh out of the rind in strands. Voila! Spaghetti. Scrape until you reach the tough outer rind.

Yes, I'm using a spoon, but fork works best for getting long, separated strands
Step 5. Serve with sauce or prepare as you would ordinary pasta. Enjoy, without the slightest scrap of guilt or reservation!

A few notes (because it wouldn't be a Traveling Spoon tutorial without them): You may have noticed that this tutorial is only for half of your squash. If you have a larger family (or two or three really hungry people), you're gonna want to make the whole thing at once. The good news is that you can cook the squash whole. Just pierce a few times with a fork and microwave for about 15-20 mins or until the rind is flexible. Cut widthwise after a few minutes' cooling time. The rest of the process is the same.

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  1. Replies
    1. It can't get much easier! I made a pesto version this week and it was awesome. The only time I ever eat normal pasta these days is for carbonara (but I'm working on a spaghetti squash version of that, too!). Just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate your comments!

  2. I have to admit I have never cooked squash. So I need to try for sure! Thanks for sharing at oopsey daisy!!

  3. We use ours as a veggie. After I microwave it, I toss the strands in some olive oil, put in a casserole dish, sprikle with grated Parmesan cheese,pepper and a bit of garlic, Top with a sprinkle of Panko and bake till the tip gets golden. Yummy!
    I have also baked it in a spring form pan, and sliced it like quiche. So many ways to use it.
    Have a good week!

    1. That sounds great! I've never thought to bake it after cooking (or top it with panko - yum!) but I'll have to give it a try :)

  4. I saw this on the Martha Stewart not too long ago, and wondered if it was easy to make! This looks great!