Spaghetti Squash is rounded and oblong in shape, measuring as much as 12 inches in length and 6 inches in diameter. When ripe, it is typically light yellow in color and weighs around 5 pounds. It is also sometimes called vegetable spaghetti, (the more common term for it in the UK), noodle squash, vegetable marrow, squaghetti and mandarin squash. The “spaghetti” name comes from the fact that when it is cooked, the flesh of the vegetable is long and stringy in appearance, like spaghetti. It rose to popularity in the US and Europe during the 1970’s.
In the early 1990’s a new variety of orange spaghetti squash came on the market. Orangetti is slightly sweeter and higher in beta-carotene than standard spaghetti squash.
The word “squash” is of Native American Indian origin. And the squash plant is generally known to be native to North and Central America since ancient times, along with maize and beans. So it is entirely reasonable for most people to think that spaghetti squash originated in North America. However, it was actually developed in Manchuria, China during the 1890’s. We are not sure when or how squash was first introduced to China. But we do know that by the 1850’s, the Chinese were growing and using some varieties of squash for fodder. Perhaps the “spaghetti” variety was developed in an effort to come up with a variety that was easier to grow.
So, how did this Chinese squash make its way to America? In the 1930’s, the Sakata Seed Company, a Japanese firm, was looking for new types of plants to promote and came upon the Chinese squash. They developed an improved strain and introduced it in seed form around the world. The Burpee Seed Company in the US picked up and marketed Sakata “vegetable spaghetti” seed (as it was then called) in 1936.
While it found some limited acceptance in rural family gardens, vegetable spaghetti was not exactly an instant American hit. In fact it was still pretty much unknown in urban America up until the World War II era. During the war, however, some popular household staple foods were in short supply. In that environment, vegetable spaghetti grew in popularity as a substitute for Italian spaghetti noodles, that could be grown at home in one’s “victory garden.” After the war, however, when food shortages were no longer an issue in the US, vegetable spaghetti once again faded into obscurity. It was scarcely heard from again until around the 1960’s, when it was reborn in California as “spaghetti squash.” Frieda Caplan’s specialty produce company in Los Angeles—the one that made such a success out of the newly dubbed “kiwi fruit”—is popularly credited with making spaghetti squash a marketing success in the US.
Spaghetti squash became popular among the hippie counterculture, where it was touted as a healthy “natural” alternative to “processed” food. It eventually went mainstream and by the 1980’s, spaghetti squash had become fairly well known and common throughout the US. Today the squash continues to have a steady following, particularly among vegetarians. But also among dieters—since it is such a low calorie, low carb food.
One of the reasons for the popularity of squash is its nutritional makeup. One cup of the vegetable has:
* Only 42 calories, making it attractive to those watching their calories (just watch how much butter or sauce you add).
* Only 10 grams of carbohydrates, making it attractive to those on low carb or low glycemic index diets.
* 0 grams fat or cholesterol, making it attractive to those watching their cholesterol.
* Only 28 mg of sodium, making it attractive to those watching their sodium intake.
* Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C, potassium, and trace amounts of zinc, phosphorus, iron, calcium, magnesium and copper—things everybody needs.
Spaghetti Squash is available year round in most large supermarkets. When selecting spaghetti squash at the market, look for hard, dense vegetables that feel heavy with no soft spots or bruises. Also look for uniformity of color with no green in it (either pale yellow or orange—depending on the variety). If it is green it isn’t yet ripe. It should be at least 9 inches (23 centimeters) in length with a 5 inch (12.7 centimeter) girth.
I am sure you have heard that spaghetti squash is a great substitute for pasta, so you’ve lugged one home from the store. Now what do you do with it? Just about any way you can think of to apply heat can be used to cook spaghetti squash. The big question is: to cut or not to cut it before cooking? You can do it either way. Here are the pros and cons of each. (Cooking times will vary with the size of the squash/pieces of squash.)
Cutting Up Spaghetti Squash Before Cooking
Advantages: It cooks faster.
Disadvantages: Like any winter squash, hacking it up takes muscle and a sharp knife or cleaver. It’s also a bit more work to scrape out the seeds and pulp when they are raw.
Method: Cut it in half (lengthwise) or quarters. You don’t want to cut it up too small unless you want short strands. Scrape out the seeds and pulp as you would with any squash or pumpkin.
Bake rind side up about 30 to 40 minutes at 375 degrees F.
Microwave 6 to 8 minutes (let stand for a few minutes afterwards)
Boil 20 minutes or so. Separate strands by running a fork through the flesh from top to bottom.
Cooking Spaghetti Squash Whole
Advantages: It’s easier.
Disadvantages: It takes longer to cook and you need to take care to not burn yor hands when removing the hotbpulp and seeds.
Method: Pierce the squash several times with a sharp knife. (Do this especially if you’re microwaving it, so you don’t end up with the squash exploding.)
Bake about an hour in the oven at 375 degrees F.
Microwave 10 to 12 minutes, then let stand for 5 minutes afterward to finish steaming.
Boil for half an hour.
Slow Cooker/Crock Pot: Put it in with a cup of water and let it go on low all day (8 to 10 hours).
When done, cut open “at the equator” (not lengthwise), remove seeds and pulp (use tongs and an oven mitt — it is HOT) and separate strands with a fork.
Did You Know? Any squash seeds can be roasted just like pumpkin seeds. They are low-carb, nutritious and delicious.
Spaghetti Squash Storage Tip
Like pumpkin and other squashes, whole uncooked spaghetti squash is best stored between 50 to 60 degrees and will last up to six months this way. On the other hand, spaghetti squash will keep several weeks at room temperature.
How To Serve Spaghetti Squash
A meat sauce made of ground meat of choice, tomatoes, mushrooms and garlic can be mixed with spaghetti squash and topped with Italian cheeses.
Adding shellfish to spaghetti squash is a way to serve the vegetable to people who enjoy seafood dishes. Shrimp scampi is also good over spaghetti squash.
Many people enjoy mixing it with regular cooked spaghetti to reduce the amount pasta in a dish or even serving it with a marinara or alfredo sauce.
Cooked spaghetti squash can also be chilled and tossed with a light vinaigrette.
There are several simple ways of serving spaghetti squash without the addition of meat or shellfish and there are a variety of preparations for this squash.
Spaghetti Squash with Tomatoes and Herbs
- 1 medium spaghetti squash
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
- 1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2-3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (or Romano cheese)
Cook squash. To bake, pierce a few holes in the squash with a large knife, skewer or ice pick to allow steam to escape. Place in a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees F. for an hour or until the skin gives easily under pressure and the inside is tender. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes, then halve lengthwise or crosswise. Scoop out seeds and fibers and discard. Use a fork to scrape out the squash flesh. It will naturally separate into noodle-like spaghetti strands.
Saute the minced garlic in the olive oil in a skillet until it’s softened and fragrant. Add the tomatoes, basil, and oregano to the garlic and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Spoon the garlic-tomato mixture on top of squash strands. Top with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. Serves 4 to 6.
Spaghetti Squash Salad with Pine Nuts and Tarragon
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 3 large (9 pounds) spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeds scraped
- 2/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
- 1 pinch crushed red pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped tarragon
- 4 ounces (1 cup) ricotta salata cheese, crumbled
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the pine nuts in a pie plate and bake for about 5 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
Arrange the spaghetti squash halves cut sides up on 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Flip the squash cut sides down and pour the water and wine into the pans. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the squash is barely tender. Flip the squash cut sides up and let cool until warm.
In a small bowl, combine the white wine vinegar with the lemon zest and lemon juice, thyme and crushed red pepper. Whisk in the 2/3 cup of olive oil; season with salt and pepper.
Working over a large bowl, using a fork, scrape out the spaghetti squash, separating the strands. Pour the dressing over the squash and toss to coat. Add the tarragon, cheese and pine nuts and toss again.
Roasted Salmon with Spaghetti-Squash Salad
- One 3 1/2-pound spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 2 small garlic cloves, minced
- 1 small red chile, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
- 1/4 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 1/2 pounds skinless center-cut salmon fillet, cut crosswise into very thin slices
- 2 large kirby cucumbers, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into thin half moons
- 2 tablespoons shredded mint
Preheat the oven to 500°F. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the squash until al dente, about 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the 2 tablespoons of oil with the lime and orange juices, garlic, chile and orange and lime zests. Season with salt and pepper.
Carefully transfer the squash halves to a large bowl and let cool. Using a fork and starting at 1 end of each piece of squash, scrape and separate the strands. Pat dry with paper towels.
Spread the salmon slices on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush lightly with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the salmon for about 3 minutes, or until cooked through.
In a medium bowl toss the cucumbers, mint and dressing with the squash strands. Mound the salad on plates, top with the salmon and serve.
Spaghetti Squash With Garlic, Parsley and Breadcrumbs
- 1 spaghetti squash, about 3 pounds
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 to 4 large garlic cloves, green shoots removed, minced
- 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pierce the squash in several places with a sharp knife. Cover a baking sheet with foil, and place the squash on top. Bake for one hour, until the squash is soft and easy to cut with a knife. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until you can handle it. Cut in half lengthwise, and allow to cool some more. Remove the seeds and discard. Scoop out the flesh from half of the squash and place in a bowl. Run a fork through the flesh to separate the spaghetti like strands. You should have about 4 cups of squash. (Use some squash from the other half if necessary). Set aside the other half for another dish.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the garlic and bread crumbs. When the bread crumbs are crisp —after about a minute — stir in the squash and parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss together over medium heat until the squash is infused with the garlic and oil and heated through, 6 to 8 minutes.
Remove to a warm serving dish, top with freshly grated Parmesan and serve.
Spaghetti Squash with Zucchini, Mushrooms and Onion
- 1 (3 to 4-pound) spaghetti squash
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced crosswise
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 zucchini (1 lb), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
- 8 ounces sliced cremini or white mushrooms
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Pierce squash (about an inch deep) all over with a small sharp knife to prevent bursting. Cook in an 800-watt microwave oven on high power (100 percent) for 6 to 7 minutes. Turn squash over and microwave until squash feels slightly soft when pressed, 8 to 10 minutes more. Cool squash for 5 minutes.
Carefully halve squash lengthwise (it will give off steam) and remove and discard seeds. Working over a bowl, scrape squash flesh with a fork, loosening and separating strands as you remove it from skin. Stir in butter and season with salt and pepper to taste. Put on a platter.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over moderately-high heat, saute onions and garlic, stirring frequently until golden, about 6 minutes. Then stir in zucchini, mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook, covered, until softened occasionally stirring, for about 7 minutes. Spoon mixture over squash.
Spaghetti Squash Bake
Serves 4 to 6.
- 1 small spaghetti squash
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 pound Italian turkey sausage, casing removed
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with liquid
- 1/2 teaspoon leaf oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- Shredded basil for garnish
Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Place spaghetti squash, cut side down, in a baking dish; add water to the baking dish. Cover with foil and bake spaghetti squash in a 375° F. oven for about 30 minutes or until the spaghetti squash is tender and easily pierced with a fork. When cool enough to handle, scoop out squash, separating strands with a fork.
In a large skillet, cook the sausage, onion, red and green pepper and garlic until meat is browned and vegetables are tender. Add tomatoes, oregano, salt, pepper and squash. Continue to cook and stir for about 2 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Transfer mixture to a 1 1/2-quart casserole; stir in 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheese. Bake uncovered at 350° F. for 25 minutes. Sprinkle spaghetti squash with the remaining 1 cup of cheese and cook for 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Top with basil.
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April 25, 2013 at 10:30 am
THanks for these great recipes. I’ve only ever topped it with meat sauce. These all sound delicious.
April 25, 2013 at 10:33 am
Spaghetti squash also makes a great side dish. I especially like the recipes with the breadcrumbs with garlic and the pine nuts with tarragon for that. Thanks Wendie.
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