Spaghetti Squash: The Final Frontier

My sister has taught me a lot of useful things in life: how to paper mache, where to hide Girl Scout cookies bought on the sly, which flavors of Lip Smackers taste good enough to eat (spoiler alert: all of them.)

Two and a half years my senior, she went before me in all walks of life — first to preschool, first to summer camp, first (fine, and only) to live in Mongolia — and passed on loads of wisdom and first-hand experience along the way as older sisters are wont to do.

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Like how to get a stubborn niece to participate in a Fourth of July photo shoot.

At the ripe at of 30, I thought I had completed my sister-led education, but then I visited her in the Midwest last month and she introduced me to something totally new once more: the spaghetti squash.

Don’t get me wrong — I’ve HEARD of spaghetti squash — but due to some combination of fear and skepticism, I’d never actually bought or cooked one. Some of that is because it’s hard to trust something mascaraing as something else — is it spaghetti? is it squash? is it Keyser Soze?— but mostly because I simply didn’t know how to cook it.

I realize the internet is full of directions for how to prepare unfamiliar ingredients, but the masses were telling me all sorts of conflicting information: “Cook it whole!” “Slice it and roast face up!” “Slice it and roast it face down!” “Toss the squash in the trash and buy some pasta!” So I kept putting off familiarizing myself with this ingredient, much like I’ve put off watching The West Wing and other recommendations people say would be good for me.

And with so many other vegetables in my life, it hasn’t been a problem avoiding this specific one for three decades. But then I started Whole30 and I suddenly found myself needing a new vehicle for my tomato sauce. Flash forward to my visit with my sister, where she taught me to cook my very first spaghetti squash. And you know what?

I failed miserably! (And you thought I was going to say it was easy, didn’t you?) I didn’t realize you had to scrape seeds out of both sides, since I was afraid of losing the flesh that I knew eventually became the eponymous noodles. Still, once we picked all the baked seeds out of the piping hot squash halves, it was easier and more satisfying than I’d ever imagined to flake the squash into strands. We topped it with sauce and — more importantly — meatballs, and now I’m a convert.

For those of you like me avoiding this surprisingly delicious pasta substitute that doesn’t require a spiralizer, here’s how to do it:

  1. Buy a spaghetti squash. They are giant and yellow, and every local grocery store seems to have them.
  2. Wash it, cut it in half lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds while leaving the majority of the flesh. (I guess this is also the step where I should tell you to preheat the oven to 450 degrees.)
  3. Bake face down in a 450 degree oven for 30-40 minutes.
  4. Remove, let cook enough to handle, and then use fork to break up remaining flesh into noodles. It’s easier and more fun than it sounds.
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  5. Top with sauce! In this case, Whole30 approved turkey marinara, but I imagine I’ll be doing this again with parmesan-filled pesto in 15 short days.
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  6. Enjoy in front of a movie with your fiance (step 6 is not optional and is key to the success of the dish, I swear.)
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What’s your favorite spaghetti squash preparation?

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