Spaghetti Squash: A Noodle Alternative

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Despite its name, spaghetti squash isn't a noodle, but you can treat it like one. Its rather neutral flavour lends this squash to combinations with just about any type of food. The "noodles" — translucent strands of vegetable fibre — don't have much resiliency. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; just don't overdo it with heavy ingredients. Keep in mind that when you treat spaghetti squash as a noodle alternative, you’ll need a bit more seasoning than you would with wheat noodles.

Preparation

Begin your spaghetti squash preparations just as you would a melon, then take it a step further. First, place the spaghetti squash on a folded kitchen towel to keep it from rolling around when you cut it. Slice the squash lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Reserve the seeds and roast them for a snack, or discard them.

You have three cooking options with spaghetti squash: roasting, grilling, or (though deceptively simple) microwaving. Roast the squash with the cut side down until you can pierce the skin easily with a fork, grill it in the same fashion over medium-high heat until it's tender, or microwave the squash in a shallow dish with about ½ inch water until the skin yields easily. If you want an al dente bite, roast the squash for 30 minutes at 400˚F or grill it for 25 minutes over medium heat.

After the squash cools enough to handle, use a fork to gently scrape the strands crosswise, in the same direction they run. Place the strands into a bowl and discard the skin.

Sauces

Just about any sauce you would normally use with pasta also works with spaghetti squash—save a few limitations. Spaghetti squash doesn't have the density or resiliency of spaghetti, so thick sauces such as traditional Alfredo weigh it down. Think light instead.

A simple mixture of butter and roasted garlic has the right consistency for spaghetti squash, as do most olive oil-based sauces. Combine a few Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per serving with a handful of freshly chopped herbs, then heat it on low for 15 minutes and toss it with the strands. Top the squash with shaved Parmesan just before serving.

Marinara works just as well with spaghetti squash as it does with pasta. Blend tomatoes, garlic, onions, carrots, olive oil, herbs and spices in your Vitamix machine. Cook the sauce with a bay leaf for 15 minutes and season it to taste. Toss the pasta with the sauce just before serving.

Spaghetti squash fits into other main courses, too. When you're making soup, ragout or curry, add the shredded squash during the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking, just long enough to heat it through. The strands will thicken the dish and add textural appeal.

Serve It Cold

Cold spaghetti squash works great as a stand-alone dish that masterfully toes the line between refreshing salad and pasta substitute. The "noodles" have more bite than they do when served warm. Prep the squash as you normally would, then toss the strands with a vinaigrette or other light sauce while still warm. Add secondary ingredients such as sautéed onions if desired. Let the squash cool to room temperature, then chill it in the refrigerator for about two hours. Toss the pasta with freshly chopped herbs before serving. You can also substitute spaghetti squash for noodles in most pasta salad recipes.