Untangling the mystery of spaghetti squash

With the farmer’s market season in full swing, we wanted to highlight a particular vegetable that you can utilize to add some variety to your cooking. Spaghetti squash can be cooked in several different ways, and we wanted to share some of those techniques with you. Stay tuned for a simple recipe at the end of the article that you can prepare with spaghetti squash at home, as well.

Spaghetti squash is native to the Central American region of the world, but it is also successfully grown in many parts of North America. This vegetable has an ivory-yellowish or even light orange color to it. Spaghetti squash are similar to pumpkins, zucchinis, and other squash varieties because of how it is grown. It grows on a vine, and it has to be picked after it matures. In order to test if a spaghetti squash is ready to harvest, scrape your fingernail against its skin. If the skin indents, then it needs more time to ripen. Store harvested squash in a cool, dry place and most importantly, do not wash off the spaghetti squash before you store it.

Now, how to prepare a spaghetti squash: First off, be sure to wash it off thoroughly with water and use a heavier chef knife to cut into it. Use a towel to steady the squash as you cut it by placing one-half under the squash and holding the other half of the towel under your hand to hold the squash. The stem is probably too hard to cut, but start from the stem end and cut it down the middle all the way through to cut it in half. Don’t be afraid to stop and rotate the squash to get a better grip on it as you are slicing your way through. You will need to pull the halves apart to get it to separate from the stem end.

Alternatively, you can cut it down the middle the opposite way and avoid the stem end altogether. This will result in longer strands of spaghetti after it is roasted. If you’re a fan of pumpkin seeds, spaghetti squash have seeds that you can roast and eat as a snack, as well.

To get the most flavor out of your spaghetti squash, roast it in the oven. Use melted butter or olive oil to coat the inside of the spaghetti squash halves, and add salt and pepper — and for more adventure, other seasonings such as some fresh rosemary and thyme. An important thing to remember is to place the cut sides down on the baking sheet. Leaving the cut sides up will cause excess moisture to pool in the middle while baking, but with the cut sides down the edges will caramelize, which also adds a good flavor profile.

For the best results, bake it at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 to 50 minutes, depending on the size of the squash. To test for doneness, pierce the skin with a fork. If it is tender and easy for the fork to go into it, then the squash is ready. Avoid overcooking it because it will turn mushy and will have the consistency of baby food. You have cooked it for the right amount of time if the flesh of the vegetable is stringy when scraping a fork through it.

If you are short on time, you can also cook this in a microwave. Drizzle with oil and add salt and pepper and place the cut ends down in a microwave safe dish. Add about an inch of water in the bottom of the dish and microwave for about five minutes. Test for doneness with a fork, if it can pierce through the skin then it is ready to go. Avoid cooking a spaghetti squash in the microwave whole as it might burst and cause a huge mess.

Crock pots and instant pots can also be used to cook a spaghetti squash. For a crock pot, wash off the squash and poke a fork in several spots on the skin to allow steam to escape and cook on high for three to five hours depending on the size. You do not need to cut the squash in half for the crock pot method. The instant pot method is the same as before, cut it in half and scoop out the seeds, then put a steamer basket or trivet in the bottom of your instant pot. Cook it on high pressure for seven minutes if you have a three-pound squash. Otherwise, adjust the time according to the weight of the squash. The actual cook time won’t start for five to ten minutes to allow the instant pot to heat up and pressurize.

Whatever method you decide to cook spaghetti squash, use a fork to quickly create strands of “spaghetti” for your meal. While this is a popular alternative to pasta, you can also use it to replace rice in a burrito dish. There are also recipes out there that use spaghetti squash as an alternative to traditional hash browns.

Now the moment you have been waiting for, here is a recipe that will satisfy your taste buds for a weeknight meal: chicken alfredo spaghetti squash.

You will need:

  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp garlic, minced (use 2 cloves)
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup of half and half
  • 4 oz of cream cheese, cubed
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2/3 cup of cooked and shredded chicken
  • 2 1/2 cups of cooked spaghetti squash
  • Salt, pepper, and parsley to taste. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sage, then cook for about 1 minute. Stir in the flour and cook for another minute, stir it constantly. Whisk in the chicken broth, then whisk in the half and half. Stir in the Parmesan and cream cheese until smooth. Add the spaghetti squash and chicken, and cook until it is all heated through. Top it all off with salt, pepper, and parsley.
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new and cook your own spaghetti squash. There are a lot of different recipes out there, we encourage you to experiment with this versatile vegetable at home.

Stay safe and healthy out there, Lintonians!

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

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