Spaghetti Squash lives in the magic zone – the middle – between Summer Squash like Zucchini and and the more common Winter Squashes like Pumpkins and Buttercup. Their taste and texture reminds us of of the summer squash, and they aren’t as starchy as other winter squash, but they’re definitely a winter squash, since they have large seeds on the inside and a hard rind, or outer skin, which helps them store through the winter.
Like pumpkin seeds, spaghetti squash seeds, after they’ve been scooped out, can be roasted and eaten as a snack or a salad topping. There are just so many ways to use Spaghetti Squash in your kitchen, so it’s worth keeping a couple in your pantry for those times when you don’t know what to have for supper.
Spaghetti squash is also sometimes called vegetable spaghetti. When cooked, the flesh can be scraped out with a fork, and used as a yummy replacement for pasta, which is much higher in calories (40 calories vs 200 for a one-cup portion). In fact, Spaghetti Squash gained popularity during the Second World War, when pasta became much more expensive, and households were looking for different ways to grow their own food, in their own backyards. In replacing your pasta with Spaghetti Squash, you’re not only lowering your calorie intake, but adding many important nutrients, such as omega fatty acids, beta-carotene, folate, and vitamins C and A, among others. For more information on the nutritional profile, check out the link here.
Here at Sunrise Gardens, we grow a variety of Spaghetti Squash called “Small Wonder”, and we’ve chosen it for a couple of reasons. Whereas the squash you will usually find at the grocery stores is rather large (5-6 pounds) and oblong, or football shaped, these squash generally weigh between 2-3 pounds, and are rounder, and a deeper yellow. The flesh inside tends to be a little sweeter than the usual Spaghetti Squash. It’s delicious roasted or microwaved with brown sugar and cinnamon, or even brown sugar and garlic.
One of our favorite recipes is for a cold Spaghetti Squash salad. Even with the more petite Small Wonder squash, you sometimes end up with more than you need, and that was the case the day we discovered this delicious recipe. Let the squash cool, then use your fork as usual to get the meaty part out. Season with salt and pepper and let it fully cool. While it cools, simply chop up some tomatoes, cucumbers and red onion. Toss it all together with something acidic (we’ve used balsamic vinegar, Italian dressing, or lemon juice). You can add a bit of fresh basil, if you have it, or any fresh green herb, to add color. Making sure it’s fully cooled, chop up some feta or goat cheese, mix it all together, and let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour or two, so the flavours really have time to soak in. We’ve served this several times at large gatherings like our Harvest Sunday events, and it’s always a hit. Even the kids come back for more (sure, we tell them it’s “pasta” salad, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do).
There are several ways to cook your spaghetti squash. What we usually do at home is cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, and roast it, cut-side down on a baking sheet in the oven at 375C for about 45 minutes. Unless you’re using a non-stick pan, it’s a good idea to use a bit of oil on the cut side. The squash can also be cooked whole, if you don’t feel like cutting it in half raw, which can take a bit of elbow grease, and it can also be microwaved on high for 5-8 minutes, depending on the strength of the machine. When cooking the squash whole, it’s very important to pierce it several times with a fork or knife, so the steam from the cooking squash has a way to escape.
No matter the cooking method, the key is to not over cook the squash. For the perfect texture – cooked, but still with a very slight crunch, you should be able to pierce the outer rind with a butter knife. Dawn and I were both over cooking our spaghetti squash for a long time. We’ve learned that, for our tastes at least, this makes it overdone, and it loses it’s spaghetti-like texture, and ends up mushy.
It might take a couple of tries to get the timing right on whatever cooking method you choose, but once you figure that out, it’s super-easy to add Spaghetti Squash to your kitchen arsenal. Not many veggies can be used as a main dish, side dish, salad or dessert, so it’s no small wonder we like to always keep a couple in our cupboard.