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How to Cook Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash with Mushrooms and Marinara
If you’ve never tried spaghetti squash, you may be wondering if it lives up to its name. The short answer is that this seemingly ordinary squash has an extraordinary texture, which can make a great substitute for pasta noodles. For a home cook who is planning a vegan meal, trying to cut back on calories or just looking for a fresh dinner option, spaghetti squash is a great vegetable to master cooking. It’s also not hard to cook spaghetti squash. This how-to article can tell you everything you need to know to serve spaghetti squash for dinner tonight.

What is Spaghetti Squash?

Double Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash is an oblong winter squash with smooth skin ranging in color from cream to orange with a seed-filled cavity at its center. It is harvested in the early fall and available through the winter. Unlike other winter squash, such as the sweet and nutty butternut, spaghetti squash has a mild flavor, which makes it a great backdrop for a variety of flavors.

After cooking, the flesh of a spaghetti squash can be separated into delicate strands, comparable to angel hair pasta. The noodle-like texture and subtle flavor of spaghetti squash makes it a versatile vegetable, which goes well with a variety of flavored sauces – including marinara, pesto, curry and more.

A bonus of making spaghetti squash for dinner is that you can get a snack for the next day, if you roast the seeds the same way you would pumpkin seeds. Try for yourself by following our super-easy instructions on how to roast pumpkin seeds.

The health benefits of spaghetti squash are great. Spaghetti squash contains folic acid, potassium, vitamin A and other nutrients. For maximum health benefits, choose a squash with color closer to the orange end of the spectrum. More color means more beta-carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A contributing the healthy skin, vision and more.

When shopping for spaghetti squash, look for thick, hard skin and no soft spots. Choose a squash that is heavy for its size with a dull-colored rind.

Just one more benefit of spaghetti squash is that you can forget about it for up to 2 months, if stored correctly. Like potatoes, spaghetti squash should be stored whole in a cool (45-60°F) dry, dark place with good ventilation.

What to Make with Spaghetti Squash?

Spaghetti squash is a great basis for vegan, vegetarian, paleo and skinny meals but that’s not all. You can also use spaghetti squash to create a twist on a classic dinner, like spaghetti and meatballs.

Spaghetti Squash “Noodles”

Whether you are looking for a vegan noodle substitute or just want to try something different, try swapping out your pasta noodles for spaghetti squash. To make in this way, you will bake the squash as described above. Then, toss the spaghetti squash “noodles” with the marinara sauce of your choice and serve in a bowl. Spaghetti Squash Pasta with Tomato-Beet Sauce is a great way to use up garden vegetables and can easily be made vegan with the right Dijon. If you want to serve with meat, try this twist on spaghetti and meatballs, Skinny Italian Bulgur Meatballs with Spaghetti Squash.

Spaghetti Squash Pasta with Tomato Beet Sauce

Spaghetti Squash Muffin-Tin Meal

Another way to take advantage of the texture of spaghetti squash is to use the cooked squash noodles as the base for a paleo-friendly muffin-tin meal. To make spaghetti squash in this way, cook spaghetti squash using any method you wish and while it’s baking make your cupcake filling. Once the spaghetti squash is cooked and separated into noodles, press squash into the cups of muffin tin to create little nests. One of our favorite muffin-tin meals calls for topping these nests with meatballs. Give the Spaghetti Squash and Meatball Cupcakes recipe a try.

Spaghetti Squash and Meatball Cupcakes

Spaghetti Squash Boats

This is a simple way to serve spaghetti squash for dinner. To make a spaghetti squash boat, you don’t even have to cut the squash in half. Start by baking in the oven whole. While the squash is cooking, you make a filling. The filling could be any type of sauce you desire (or have the ingredients to make). After the squash is done cooking, you can easily cut in half. At this point, you will the remove seeds, separate the squash from its skin and toss squash with the filling before returning the mixture to the squash shell to serve. The Double-Spaghetti Squash is a great recipe to try.

Double Spaghetti Squash

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash?

It’s easy to cook spaghetti squash in the oven in 30 minutes. In fact, the hardest part about making spaghetti squash for dinner is most certainly cutting it open, so without further ado, here’s how to bake spaghetti squash.

What You Need:

  • paring knife
  • 8” chef’s knife
  • cutting board
  • large serving spoon
  • 13x9-inch baking dish
  • fork
  • kitchen towel

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb. spaghetti squash
  • water

1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.

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2. Place the kitchen towel on the cutting board and lay the squash on top so the towel is like a cushion between the board and the squash. The towel is there to help keep the squash from rolling across the smooth surface of the cutting board. Using the paring knife, begin scoring the skin of the squash starting just below the stem. When you get to the bottom of the squash, turn it over and continue the score up the other side. You do not need to cut all the way through the skin, but taking this step will make it easier to cut the squash in half.

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3. Next, use your chef’s knife to cut all the squash in half. Following the line of your score, and again starting below the stem, it should be relatively easy to cut through the squash. If you start below the stem, you should be able to split the squash in half, and then set your knife aside and pull the two halves apart to break the sturdy stem.

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4. Once you have the squash cut in two, use your large spoon to scrape out the seeds. Scrape away until there is no slime or seed left inside the cavity. Remember, you can roast the seeds for a snack. The directions are the same as for roasting pumpkin seeds.

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5. When both cavities are clean, place squash halves cut side down in the 13x9-inch baking dish, and pour in enough water to cover the bottom. If you want to speed up the process a bit, cover the pan with tinfoil before putting in the oven. The tinfoil helps trap the heat, steaming the squash more quickly. Check the squash after 30 minutes. It should be fork tender. Depending on the size of the squash, it may take up to 45 minutes to cook.

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6. After removing the squash from the oven, let cool. Then, take a fork and comb along the flesh, starting inside the cavity to separate the fibers. They should unfurl easily but use a gentle hand, if you are looking for noodle-like tendrils.

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7. Now that you have a bowl of spaghetti squash noodles, there are a number of different dishes you can make.

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Different Methods for Making Spaghetti Squash

While it is easy to bake spaghetti squash in the oven and that method yields great results, it is not the only way to cook spaghetti squash. Depending on the recipe you are making, one of the methods listed below might work even better.

How to bake a whole spaghetti squash?

If you just aren’t comfortable hacking a squash in half, there is another way. Baking your spaghetti squash whole means you cut open the squash after its skin has softened in the oven. Start by preheating the oven to 400°F, pierce the squash with a fork and place in the oven in an ungreased baking dish. A three-pound squash will take about 1 hour and 30 minutes to bake. When the squash is cool enough to handle, cut in half and remove seeds. If you go this route, try the Double-Spaghetti Squash, which features the best of both worlds – pesto-tossed spaghetti in a spaghetti squash.

How to microwave spaghetti squash?

This is the fastest way to cook spaghetti squash and it doesn’t require cutting the squash in half. To microwave a whole spaghetti squash, pierce the skin with a knife in several places. This will allow steam to escape while cooking. Place on paper towel in microwave and cook uncovered 18 to 23 minutes or until tender. Once the squash is cool enough to handle, cut in half and remove seeds and slimy fibers. This is a good cooking method if you want to speed up a multi-step recipe or just get dinner on the table faster. For a quick weeknight twist on buttered noodles, try using the microwave to make our recipe for Spaghetti Squash with Parmesan and Pine Nuts.

How to roast spaghetti squash?

This is a fast and flavorful way to cook spaghetti squash. First, preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut the spaghetti squash in half and scrape out the seeds, as described above in steps 1-4 above. Place the squash cut side up in a baking dish, brush with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt, pepper and any other seasonings desired. The squash will roast for about 20 to 25 minutes or until fork soft. This cooking method lends itself well to stuffing as you can easily make a filling during the time the squash in roasting, or you can take use roasted spaghetti squash to make a muffin-tin meal, like Spaghetti Squash and Meatball Cupcakes.

How to Store Leftover Spaghetti Squash?

If you end up with a surplus of cooked spaghetti squash, or if you like prepping meals ahead of time, you’ll want to know how to store cooked spaghetti squash.

  1. After cooking, separate the flesh from the shell.
  2. Store the spaghetti squash in a covered dish in the refrigerator for up to five days.
  3. If you want to store spaghetti squash for longer, place in a plastic freezer bag. It should keep for up to six months.

When you are looking for simple ways to integrate more vegetables into your diet or are simply curious about how these yellow gourds really taste, there’s a lot to like about spaghetti squash. In fact, you could say this squash is a blank canvas – ready to mix it up with curry, just as easily as it melds with marinara. The only limit to preparing delicious spaghetti squash is your own imagination.



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