I don’t know about you all, but I am a serious veggie freak. I know that if I absolutely had to, I could give up meat and be totally okay with it. #seriously.
I can’t remember the first time I read about spaghetti squash, but I can tell you for a fact that it was on one of the many food blogs that I read. Billed as the “new” alternative to pasta, I knew I just had to try it out. And boy oh boy, am I glad that I did! That very day I distinctly remember hopping into my car, driving down the street to the grocery store, and picking one up. Plans were formulating in my foodie brain, and I couldn’t be more excited.
The thing that really excited me about trying out this new ingredient was the health benefits. As you all know, I am a huge fan of healthy cooking and eating. By all means, I love a good indulgent meal, but if I have the opportunity to get a few extra nutrients and health benefits in my meals (all without sacrificing flavor, of course!) I am all about it. In a direct comparison of spaghetti squash(SS) to pasta(P) (1 cup of each), you’ll come across the following:
-31 calories (SS) vs 371 calories (P)
-7 grams of carbohydrates (SS) vs 75 grams of carbohydrates (P)
-.6 grams of fat (SS) vs 1.5 grams of fat (P)
-120 IU of vitamin A and 2.1 mg of vitamin C (SS) vs zero of each (P)
The numbers speak for themselves. Squash, for the win. But! – moving on.
After preheating my oven to 400 degrees, I set to work cutting this gourd in half. I am well versed and confident in my knife skills, but I will say this – cutting large gourds always, always makes me nervous! I’ve read tips about heating up squash in the microwave to slightly soften the skin, but I’ve found that taking my time and making small incisions around the long sides of the gourd works just as well. Make sure that you are very careful when doing this! And remember, sharp knives are safe knives!
Once I successfully cut it in half, long ways from top to bottom, I scooped out the interior seed pack. Side note: these are great roasted! Simply clean them off, spread out on a greased sheet pan and season with salt/pepper, herbs, or cinnamon sugar – whatever strikes your fancy! Bake at 275 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until seeds start to pop. Remove from the oven and cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
Place the squash halves, flesh sides up, on a baking sheet lined with foil. Drizzle each half with olive oil, and sprinkle well with salt and pepper. Depending on the side of the squash, this can take anywhere from 60-70 minutes. I prefer to cook them on the slightly “al dente” side, especially if I’ll be using them in a casserole. Overcooked squash is just like overcooked pasta – mealy and unappetizing.
Once removed from the oven, allow the squash to cool completely. Next up, the fun part! In order to create strands of “spaghetti” you’ll use a fork to gently rake out the strands of squash. I like to do this right on the foil that I cooked the squash on. Why dirty another pan, right? Once all is shredded, transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge. I’ve found that this will typically keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.
If you’re going to use this in a casserole, I definitely recommend preparing this squash ahead of time. It requires minimal effort, and if you have a low-key evening planned, might as well roast a squash, right? And don’t think that this is only good for casseroles! You can use in a stir fry, subbed into traditional spaghetti and meatballs…the possibilities are endless. Try it on top of my Tomato Sauce with Onion & Butter – it’s fabulous. I’m seeing a few new plans formulating in my head…but y’all will just have to come back and find out what’s next!