I thought today would be a good day to resurrect one of my earlier recipes. Spaghetti squash wasn’t something that was served at our house much until about 18 months ago at which time I had several friends on weight loss plans. I was trying to rework some of my recipes to make them healthier for friends. I’m not a big fan of squash. That may make me unpopular, but it is what it is. I’m being honest. What changed my mind about squash was the spaghetti squash. Wow! It was tasty and fun to eat. I played around with sauces and now I can truthfully say I enjoy squash. But just the one that moonlights as spaghetti noodles. From November 16, 2012:
Last week I posed the following question on my Facebook page: “What are some topics, tips, advice, recipes you’d like to see on the blog?” I received several answers and one answer that I received was from my friend Sandra. Sandra writes: “You know, I’ve been intrigued by Spaghetti Squash. I would like to try using it in place of noodles with my family, but I don’t know 1)- What it looks like, 2)- How to pick a good one, and 3)- How to prepare it noodle style. A tutorial on that would be great!!”
Well Sandra, ask and you shall receive! Without further delay, I bring you “The Humble Spaghetti Squash.”
Spaghetti squash is a yellow, oval-shaped squash. Raw it has a firm, semi-crisp flesh and when cooked that tender flesh falls apart into spaghetti-like strands that have a slightly sweet and mild flavor.
The rule of thumb for choosing the right squash is to find one that has a nice, round, dry stem. You will also want one that feels fairly heavy for its size. The average Spaghetti squash weighs about 2-3 pounds. Make sure the rind is dry and free of cracks or soft spots (which could mean it is rotting or will rot quickly). If you find a little beauty that meets all the above criteria, put that baby in your shopping cart! The flesh of a spaghetti squash isn’t a solid mass (even though it looks like that when you cut it open) like what you find in an acorn or butternut squash. Instead, as you gently scrap at it with a fork, it peels away into strands that look like spaghetti noodles, hence the name- spaghetti squash. There is nothing special you have to do to make it “noodle style” because the “noodles” appear naturally.
Did you know you can actually store a squash for up to 3 months if you keep it in a cool, dark place? I personally don’t have a root cellar where I can keep all manner of fruits and veggies at a desirable 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit, so I use my squash within a week or two of buying it. Don’t store this in the fridge, the cold air will cause it to spoil. I let mine sit on my kitchen counter out of the sunlight. On occasion, I draw a funny face on the skin because who doesn’t want a happy squash sitting on their kitchen counter?
Now that we know what a spaghetti squash looks like and what it is, let’s get it prepped for its trip to your oven.
Spaghetti SquashRecipe by: Real Food Girl: Unmodified
Here is what you will need:
- A sharp, sturdy chef knife
- A microwave (to soften the squash slightly in an effort to make it easier to cut in half)
- a shallow baking pan covered with a sheet of parchment paper
- 1 fork
- 1 large spoon
- Salt & pepper
- A cutting board
- If you don’t have a cutting board with silicone sides that keep it from scooting all over your counter top, dampen a tea towel, wring it out, lay it on the counter and place your cutting board on top. It should now be held securely in place. Spaghetti squash are hard to cut, and one slip of that cutting board could mean an injury, and I’m sure that you want to keep all your fingers.
- A kitchen towel or hot pad holder
- a bowl for the “guts” and the seeds
- a bowl for the cooked flesh
- 1 spaghetti squash (I almost forgot to list this!)
- EV olive oil
- 1 Cup cooked ground beef or ground turkey, crumbled. (optional)
- A quality, organic spaghetti sauce (I’ll include a recipe)
- and/or a quality, organic Alfredo sauce (I’ll include a recipe)
- Parmesan cheese, shred your own.
- Wash your squash. Ha- it’s like Dr. Seuss is in the howse!
- Dry with a clean paper towel.
- Poke several holes in the skin of the squash with a fork, and place the squash in your microwave. Microwave the whole squash for about 8 minutes. Rotate the squash halfway through to avoid a soft spot on the bottom.
- Remove the squash from microwave using a hot pad holder or a kitchen towel. It will be hot
- Place squash on cutting board.
- Although you softened the squash slightly in the microwave, it will still be a little hard to get the knife through it.
- Hold the squash steady and with a sharp, sturdy knife, cut a small 1/2″ slice off the top and tail of the squash. You’re creating a flat spot to keep the squash steady during cutting.
- Stand the squash up on the cutting board. Using a sharp, sturdy knife, cut down the center of the squash from top to bottom.
- Scoop out the fibrous strings and the seeds with a spoon into a bowl.
- Once you’ve removed the seeds and the fibrous strings (guts), brush the flesh with a little bit of olive oil, and lightly salt and pepper them.
- Place both halves cut side down onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-50 minutes. Check them at 30 minutes. Scrape off a little of the flesh with a fork and taste it. If it is still a bit “crunchy”, put it back in and check on it every 10 minutes, until the flesh is soft.
- Remove from oven, and let sit until cool enough to handle.
- With the tines of a fork lightly scrape the flesh out working from the edges towards the center and get all the way down to the skin, put all the flesh in a bowl and set aside.
There are several ways to serve your spaghetti squash. Some people like it with butter, salt and pepper. Others like it with butter and Parmesan. You can also serve it drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper, and experiment with fresh herbs. My personal favorite is to serve it with an Alfredo like sauce and some marinara sauce with ground turkey or ground beef mixed in. Your possibilities are endless. You can make it vegetarian by omitting the meat in my red sauce.
Here are pictures of the squash as it passes through the above steps:
Basic Parmesan White Sauce:Recipe by: Real Food Girl: Unmodified
- 3 TB flour
- 3 TB butter
- 1-1/2 cup whole or 2% milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 to 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1 bay leaf
- pinch of nutmeg
- kosher salt and white pepper
- In a 1 quart saucepan melt butter. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk/stir constantly over low heat for 3 minutes.
- Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly until it begins to thicken. Add bay leaf, pinch of nutmeg and a little white pepper. Add the cream and continue to cook over medium low heat, whisking as needed being careful not to allow the sauce to burn on the bottom.
- Taste the sauce, add some salt, and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan. Stir to combine. Taste. Add cheese until you’ve reached your desired flavor. If sauce gets too thick, add a little more milk to thin.
- Remove from heat and set aside until ready to serve.
Basic Tomato Bolognese:Recipe by: Real Food Girl: Unmodified
*Feel free to make this without meat and go completely vegetarian!*
- 1- 28 ounce can of high quality crushed tomatoes. (Make sure they don’t contain sugar- check the label)
- 1 container of grape tomatoes cut in half
- 5-7 fresh basil leaves cut chiffonade (stack leaves, roll into a tight cigar shape and cut into very thin ribbons)
- 1-1/2 tsp fresh oregano chopped
- 1 dried bay leaf
- salt and black pepper
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1-2 cloves of fresh garlic minced
- 1/2 pound of lean ground beef or ground turkey, well seasoned with S&P, drained of excess fat
- 1/2 yellow onion- small dice
- 1/4-1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
-If you don’t want to use fresh herbs, start with 1/4 tsp of dried basil and oregano let the sauce simmer, and add up to another 1/2 tsp. until desired flavor is reached.
-If you want to keep this dish vegetarian, omit the meat from the recipe.
- In a saute pan brown the turkey or beef with the diced onion until cooked through. Drain of excess fat and set aside.
- In a sauce pot over medium heat add the can of crushed tomatoes and the halved grape tomatoes.
- Add the minced garlic, the basil and oregano and bay leaf. Stir to combine. Taste. If your tomatoes taste a little bitter or acidic, add 1/4 tsp.sugar. Stir to combine.
- Continue to cook the sauce over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes. Add some salt and black pepper and the Parmesan. Stir to combine. Taste. If still bitter add another 1/4 tsp sugar.
- Add the meat and onion mixture and water to the sauce and stir. Taste it. Adjust seasonings. Add more garlic if desired, or more oregano and basil, salt and pepper. Just add seasonings slowly until you reach your desired flavor. You can always add more, but you can’t take it away.
- Cook sauce for another 10-15 minutes until water is cooked out and sauce is thick and flavorful. Serve over your favorite noodles or spaghetti squash.
Awesome Spaghetti Squash thumbnail photo (at beginning of post) sourced from Fresh Fork Market