Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spaghetti Squash Recipes

I love spaghetti squash but I feel like people have given it a bit of an identity crisis. It is often said that is the perfect substitute for pasta.  Even the name "Spaghetti squash" makes it sound like a hybrid between vegetable and pasta. However, I think we do spaghetti squash a disservice. It is a wonderful squash that has a unique texture and a subtle, mildly nutty flavor that works well with a variety of ingredients. It is not pasta. Okay, it does resemble spaghetti and it could be put it into most recipes that call for spaghetti and be a good fit J But I think it has many worthwhile qualities on its own and really is not just a stand in for pasta.
While spaghetti squash is not the powerhouse of nutrients that some other winter squashes are, it is low in calories with a good dose of fiber, and a decent dollop of vitamin C, a few B’s and manganese. Spaghetti squash recipes are very adaptable to a variety of food preferences and needs. For example, all of these recipes are gluten free and most can be made lactose free by nixing the cheese and using olive oil instead of butter. You can skip the bacon for vegetarians plus hold the cheese and butter for vegans. The marinara version and the spiced version can be made low in calories. Or pile on the bacon and cheese for your favorite omnivore. I love the versatility of this humble yet tasty vegetable.
I want to share my top four favorite ways to serve spaghetti squash.
Along with these recipes, I also like to serve it up simply with a bit of butter, salt, pepper and a sprinkle of parmigiano-reggiano. On a side note, parmigiano-reggiano is the best, official parmesan cheese from Italy. You could substitute other parmesan cheeses in these recipes but if you have the option, get parmigiano-reggiano! It is crazy good cheese in my opinion. Flavorful, complex, nutty, salty and tangy with a wonderful texture.  Pick up a little square of it. This is real parmesan cheese as it was created to be, not some waxy, flavorless wanna-be.  
Okay, back to our star today: Spaghetti squash. I usually try to get a nice large sized squash, free from blemishes and nicks. It can keep for up to 2-3 weeks in a cool place. Just make sure it stays feeling firm. I have heard it will taste better if you don’t store it too long but people have kept spaghetti squash for over a month and said it was fine.  
Any of these recipes could be a main dish or a side dish in a hearty meal. I would serve it with a nice crisp green salad and a crusty loaf of bread.
All of these recipes start with baking the squash so let’s just explain that once.
To Bake squash: wash and cut squash in half and remove the seeds and only the darker membrane strings around the seeds. Place cut side down in baking dish with a bit of water.  Bake uncovered in 375 oven for about 40 minutes. (In a pinch, if you must, you may also microwave for about 10-15 minutes. Check for doneness. If needed, continue to cook in microwave in 3 minute intervals till soft. This will not be quite as flavorful and fluffy as roasted.)
Spaghetti Squash with Marinara, Onion
and Peppers
Serves about 6-8
1 large spaghetti squash, baked, directions follow
1 large onion
1 bell pepper, any color
½  tsp. smoked paprika (or regular paprika, I just love the subtle smokiness)
1 tsp Italian herb blend
½ -1 tsp. cracked black pepper and salt, taste
½ tsp onion powder
1-2 cloves garlic pressed
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes, diced (About 15 oz)
1-2 cup marinara sauce (depending on the size of the squash, you don’t want to over sauce)
2/3 -3/4 cup grated cheese- mozzarella or Italian blend with parmesan  
2 TBSP parmigiano-reggiano

Prepare squash as directed above.
It works well to make the sauce while squash cools a bit.
Cut onion in half and then make vertical slim slices. To a large frying pan add 1-2 TBSPN olive oil and cook onion on low for about 10 minutes to lightly brown. Cut bell pepper into thin slices similar to onion. Add bell pepper to pan and cook for another 4 minutes. Add spices and stir. Then add diced tomato and marinara. Let it simmer a few minutes.
The squash should be cool enough now to use a fork to separate the strands from the shell of the squash. At this point, you can choose to mix the sauce and squash strands together. You can add 3/4 cup of cheese in and spoon everything into oiled rectangular 9 by 13 baking dish. OR if you prefer, you can layer it. Put a bit of sauce in the bottom of pan, place a layer of the squash, spoon some sauce over it and sprinkle with cheese. Continue to layer for two or three layers until you have everything in the pan.
Top with 2 TBSPN Parmigiano-Reggiano. You could add another handful of any cheese.
 This may be made several hours ahead and refrigerated at this point. If so, or if the squash has cooled off too much, pop it in a 400 degree oven for 6-12 minutes to heat it up and then continue with next step--
Place under broiler for a few minutes, checking often, until bubbly and starting to brown.

Smoky Spaghetti Squash
Serves about 6
1 large spaghetti squash, baked
6-8 strips bacon
1 onion, diced
1 tsp. smoked paprika,
½ -1 tsp. smoke-flavored pepper or ground black pepper
1 tsp. smoked salt or kosher salt( use One smoked salt or pepper and the other regular)
½ tsp.Onion powder
2 roma or other tomato, thinly sliced, optional
2/3 cup grated smoked cheddar, smoked gouda or other smoked cheese
2 TBSP parmigiano reggiano, grated

Prepare squash as described above.
Once squash is cool, use a spoon and fork to separate the strands from the shell of the squash.
While squash is cooking and cooling, crisp up 6-8 strips of bacon in large fry pan. Once they are cooked, remove to paper towel and drain most  of the grease and add onions to pan and lightly brown for about 5 minutes. Add squash, crumbled bacon bits and spices and stir until hot.
Place in rectangular baking dish. Sprinkle half of the smoked cheese then top with sliced tomato, if desired. Sprinkle with rest of cheese and parmesan.
(You may make this several hours ahead and refrigerate at this point. If you do, or if the squash has cooled off too much, you may pop it in a 400 degree oven for 6-12 minutes to heat it up and then continue with recipe and… )
Place under broiler for a few minutes, checking often, until bubbly and starting to brown.
 Spaghetti Squash Parmesan
Prep squash the same way as above. Once it is shredded but still hot, mix in 1/3 cup pesto and 1/3 cup parmigiano-reggiano, two cloves garlic-crushed, salt, pepper, 1 tsp. Italian herbs. If desired, thinly slice and brown a small onion in olive oil and add this, too. Place in greased baking dish or individual ramekins and top with sliced tomato. Add a generous sprinkle of parmesan. (If making ahead, you may refrigerate and heat in microwave or covered in 400 oven for 6-12 minutes)
Broil until top is brown and crispy, about 5 or so minutes but DO check after 3 minutes and continue checking often until done. This will burn quickly once it is done. 

Spiced Spaghetti Squash with  Walnuts
Prepare one small to medium squash as described above. Separate strands with fork and set aside.
 In a large shallow frying pan, heat up 2-3 TBSP unsalted butter. When thoroughly melted, add the following:
Approximately 1 tsp each salt and pepper
Approximately ½ tsp. each fresh ground nutmeg, ground coriander
Approximately ¼ tsp or a pinch each of cinnamon, ginger, crushed red pepper
Approximately ½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
Sauté for a minute or two until walnuts barely begin to turn golden and fragrant and add strands to pan. Mix thoroughly and cook for just a minute. Serve immediately. If desired, sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
Recipes by Denise Birdsall


  1. Great recipes! We eat a lot of spaghetti squash at our house, either with marinara or with walnuts, spices, green onions, and dried cranberries. I'm excited to try your smoky squash recipes.

  2. Ohh, I like the idea of walnuts, green onions and cranberries. What spices do you do in that one? I will have to try it!

  3. I like the combo of ingredients you have going on here. This looks like such a light and fulfilling meal.

  4. It is both light and satisfying! We really love it and since I posted this, I have had so many people mention how they really love spaghetti squash but some always cook it the same way, nice to hear lots of options!

  5. How interesting! I must admit I have never tried this!!!! Lovely dishes! :-))))
    Manu (Manu's Menu)

  6. Is spaghetti squash available in austrailia or Italy? It is getting more and more popular here but there are still many people who have not tried it. Thanks for visiting my site!

  7. I love these! I've never cooked with spaghetti squash but my future husband loves it so I'll be trying one of these very soon! Have a blessed day!

  8. I hope you will find one or two ways to cook it that you enjoy. It is so easy!
    Best wishes on your upcoming wedding. I hope it is wonderful day of celebration and a start of a fantastic life together! Peace and joy as you prepare :-)

  9. I’m always looking for new recipes that help us cut back on the processed alternatives. Thanks for sharing this recipe with all instruction and ingredients. UpdateLand