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The Secret Life of Spaghetti Squash

Is it a vegetable? Is it a grain? What is it with this spaghetti squash craze? Do not fear these questions, I was just as quizzical as you were not long ago. The spaghetti squash seemed like an intimidating ingredient for me to explore in my cooking adventures (first off, how do you open the thing and have it end looking like thin noodles?!). After some research on the ever-reliable World Wide Web and some confidence in the kitchen, however, I have come to love this HEALTHY vegetable that acts a great substitute to common starches like pasta, potatoes and rice.

Spaghetti squash is a great alternative to pasta since many recipes using spaghetti squash are great adaptations from our favorite pasta recipes. I will be honest, spaghetti squash does not taste exactly like spaghetti; it is a bit sweeter and is a known vegetable instead of a grain but is well worth the swap. It is very mild in flavor so I usually always add some sort of sauce to it but it can also be simple enjoyed with some olive oil or butter.

Spaghetti squash is oval shaped and yellowish in color. It can be found all yearlong in  our grocery stores and could be labeled as either summer or winter squash depending on the season. Spaghetti squash is also a great source of a variety of vitamins, minerals and fiber! Research in China has recently found that it contains “plant-food” flavenoids that help fight cancer. In addition to these nutrients, the nutritional info for spaghetti squash is great as well! In comparison to the high-calorie, high-carb traditional pasta, a 1-cup serving of cooked spaghetti squash has only 42 calories and 10 carbs and is fat free in its natural state.

Now enough about the health facts, lets start cooking one of the “world’s healthiest food options”!

How do you cook spaghetti squash?

There are two ways to cook spaghetti squash, baking or microwaving. If you have more time, some prefer to bake but I have used a microwave in the past and find the quality just as good. Here are some simple instructions for both options. (Hint: I used YouTube videos for visual tutorials to help me the first few times)

Baking Instructions: Preheat the oven to 375ºF.Cut the squash in half lengthwise; remove and discard seeds. Place squash on a baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 1 hour. Separate the strands of squash with a fork and place in a medium bowl; discard shells.

Microwave Instructions: Cut squash in half; remove and discard seeds. Place squash cut-sides down in microwave-safe baking dish. Fill dish with about 1 inch of water. Microwave on high for about 12 minutes or until you can easily pierce squash with fork. (Cooking time depends on size of squash and individual microwaves). Let squash cool for about 15 minutes or until cool enough to handle. With fork, scrape out spaghetti-like strands.

Favorite Recipes

The range of recipes you can explore with spaghetti squash is almost endless! You can simply roast your squash and drizzle olive oil and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or pesto as well as use the squash in casseroles or make a Bolognese sauce spaghetti squash boat. Below are links to a few of the best recipes I have found and approved of in the past. I can promise that any beginner or amateur chef will be able to handle these recipes in our college kitchens!

Baked Spaghetti Squash and Cheese

A simple combination of cheesy baked spaghetti squash and baby spinach is a great and healthy alternative to one of my favorite comfort foods Mac & Cheese. Vegetarians can enjoy this dish as well!

Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatballs and Tomato Sauce

I love this dish because I am able to make two healthy swaps (turkey meatballs for regular meatballs and spaghetti squash for pasta) yet still keep a delicious Italian taste with the dish! If you do not feel comfortable making your own meatballs, you can always by precooked frozen ones, my personal favorite are Stony Brook Farms Turkey meatballs.

Southwestern Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

In a sea of many Italian recipes, this spaghetti squash recipe really hits the spot when you want some Tex-Mex flavor. Containing all my favorite aspects of a traditional taco dish-meaty, spicy, zesty and flavorful- this healthy alternative is one to definitely try out!

Spaghetti Squash Pizza

I will admit I have not tried this recipe yet, but since I am a recent fan of cauliflower crust pizza I am sure I will love this healthy alternative. With a simple crust recipe I can really go in any direction with toppings depending on my mood. Who needs to feel guilty about late night greasy pizza when you can bake this alternative in your own dorm!

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boat

This recipe had me at lasagna! This recipe has all the flavors that a lasagna offers AND keeps you from having all those dirty dishes like with the traditional Italian dish. With this recipe, you can feel free to use whatever spaghetti sauce is your favorite just to remind you of that traditional lasagna taste you love!

Other recipes to try out:

  • Spaghetti Squash Alfredo
  • Spaghetti Squash with pesto
  • Spaghetti Squash Primavera
  • Spaghetti Squash Shrimp Scampi
  • Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai
  • Spaghetti Squash Tacos
  • …must I go on?!

Spaghetti squash recipe options are endless (I have Pinterest to back me up on this one)! You can really explore your culinary side and start incorporating the spaghetti squash in your diet. With the health benefits and great flavor, spaghetti squash is worth trying out and way to get out of your old pasta patterns.

Photo Sources:

http://www.culicurious.com/spaghetti-squash-recipe-with-spinach-pesto-pan-roasted-tomatoes/

http://thoughtsfromadaughteroftheking.blogspot.com/2012/01/bone-broth-by-any-other-name.html

http://howtoeat.ca/how-to-recipe-makeover-lasagna-stuffed-spaghetti-squash/

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