Move Over Pasta!
Maybe spaghetti squash isn’t the best thing since sliced bread – but IMHO, it’s damn close.
What other veggie can do a great stand in for pasta, is fantastic with whatever tasty goodness you want to pair it with, and weighs in at a fraction of the calories and carbs of pasta?
Color me smitten.
That’s right. At 42 calories and 10 grams of carbs per cup (vs 220 calories and 42 grams for pasta) spaghetti squash is packed with nutrients, weight watching friendly, Paleo and Whole30 compliant, and as versatile as pasta. We’ll show you 5 great ways to serve spaghetti squash – Serve it as a simple side with butter and cheese, garlic and oil, or fancy it up with Shrimp Scampi, Italian Meat Sauce, or Spicy Taco Filling.
Here are 3 reasons we’re a little obsessed with spaghetti squash these days.
1- Spaghetti squash tastes great!
What does spaghetti squash taste like? Well, not pasta. Let’s be clear on that. Cuz, only pasta is pasta. But it is served in spaghetti-like strands which have a slight crunch, and tastes like – squash! (If it is mushy, oops, you have overcooked it.) This wonder veggie is a true “kitchen chameleon” much like pasta, in that it is a blank slate that’s enhanced by virtually any flavor. The texture is satisfying, and tends to hold whatever tasty goodness you want to serve on it, in it or beside it.
Spaghetti squash makes a quick and easy side that will serve up great flavor and give your belly a break from the bloat. Serve it up with a little butter, cracked pepper and fresh parsley (ghee instead of butter for the Whole30 peeps) and you will never miss the pasta, rice or potatoes. I promise! And if you’re looking for it to work a little harder, serve it up in a supporting role as the base for any one of hundreds of gourmet meals. My personal “go to” is homemade meat sauce, with a sprinkling of parmesan reggiano, and some torn basil. And when I’m feeling a little fancy, I’ll go with Shrimp Scampi. When the kids are in the house, serve it up Mexican style in its own bowl.
2- Eat Your Veggies! Spaghetti Squash is good for you.
Spaghetti squash is a healthy fiber-filled veggie that is jam packed with nutrients. And the best news, you can scoff it up without “spending” much of your daily calories and carbs. Gluten Free, weight watching friendly, paleo and W30 compliant, spaghetti squash is a quick and easy side that’s calorie and carb conscious. A cup of spaghetti squash contains a meager 42 calories, and 10 grams of carbohydrates as compared with pasta weighing in at 220 calories and 42 grams of carbohydrate. It also contains important nutrients such as potassium, and antioxidant Vitamin C and Vitamin A, and is close to fat free. Spaghetti squash is actually often recommended by dieticians for managing cholesterol and weight.
3- Affordable, simple to prepare and easy to store or freeze
Picking the right squash is essential. Be sure the stem is dry and odor free. If it is black or moist, that is a sign of rot and you should not use it. The rind should be shiny and free of spots. Once cooked it will last in the refrigerator and will easily freeze. If I expect leftovers, I’ll set aside the squash without sauce and freeze it separately, Spaghetti squash is normally available year-round although it is a fall/ winter vegetable. The price of spaghetti squash varies by season and location, but can generally be purchased for a little over $1.00 per pound, under $4.00 for an average 3 pounder.
How to prepare spaghetti squash.
Spaghetti squash can be prepared in many ways, baked, steamed, cut in rings or halves either crosswise or lengthwise, or microwaved. Our favorite is a combo of several methods. Precooking in the microwave makes it easier to work with, and reduces oven time to avoid drying out. Finish it off in the oven to get a touch of that great caramelized flavor
- Heads up! Spaghetti squash skin is quite hard, making it difficult to cut. Cutting the squash in half can be a little scary. Here’s how to take the risk out of prepping your squash.
- Ask your produce guys to halve it for you lengthwise if you’re going to be using in the next day or so.
- Alternately, when you are ready to use it, poke multiple holes in the surface and microwave for a few minutes until you can easily pierce the skin. Let it cool for a few minutes until it is cool enough to handle.
- Slice lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds.
- Rub the inside with oil, then bake face down on parchment paper at 350 degrees for 30- 50 minutes. Flip it over to test for doneness. It is ready when tender to a fork.
- Let it cool, again, just until it’s not too hot to handle
- With 2 forks, “pull” the strands in opposite directions away from the skin until the shells are empty. (Think pulled pork or pulled chicken)
- Serve as is or complete your recipe.
Our 5 Favorite Ways to Do Spaghetti Squash
Fabulous spaghetti squash recipes abound on the internet. All you have to do is search and we suggest you do. Review a few recipes and pick the one that best suits your personal taste and level of cooking skill – or mix it up by creating your own recipe from by combining the “best of.” But here are some simple ideas to get you started.
1- Beat the “side dish blahs” with spaghetti squash.
Tired of the old standbys of broccoli, spinach, and baked potato? This is for you.
- Serve your spaghetti squash with butter, grated cheese, salt and cracked pepper, and a sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley, because…color. Keep it Whole30 friendly with ghee and fresh parsley. For a quick and easy weeknight dinner, pair it with grilled chicken, and a bright green salad or veggie.
- Change it up and serve with warm oil infused with garlic. This is my favorite with with grilled steak.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Spaghetti Squash
Amp it up for a colorful and tasty side of roasted brussels and spaghetti squash that can stand on its own too. Recipes abound on the internet if you want to get fancy. MOJO HACK – Brussels are awesome with bacon, because…bacon. So add a couple slices of bacon for a Sunday dinner worthy side.
In a nutshell:
- Prepare a medium-sized squash as directed above.
- Clean and half a pound of Brussels sprouts. (Try for the smaller ones)
- Drizzle the sprouts with good olive oil, and back on parchment paper at 425 for 25 minutes. Check them with a fork to be sure they are tender, but beginning to show some darkness in the leaves.
- Combine the spaghetti squash strands and Brussel sprouts in a bowl, with butter or oil, salt and pepper and some freshly grated Parm. Yum!
- OPTIONAL: Dice 3-4 slices of bacon and crisp up while your Brussels finish in the oven. Add the bacon, and the crispy goodness from the pan to the cooked squash and Brussels, toss gently and enjoy. NOTE: Using sugar free bacon keeps it Whole30 legal.
2 – A Quick and Easy Weeknight Meal – Spaghetti Squash and Marinara
Once you’ve mastered prepping and cooking spaghetti sauce, which is NOT hard, you are 2 minutes away from a nutritious and tasty great weeknight meal.
- Prepare your squash as directed above in the basic directions.
- Simmer your favorite prepared (as in jarred!) marinara sauce. If it makes you feel better, amp it up with some extra garlic, green pepper or dices onions. If you have a favorite marinara recipes, here is where you channel your Overachiever. Have at it! I cook most everything from scratch, but marinara sauce it one place I’ll cheat once in a while. I’ve got better things to do. And don’t you?
- Toss the prepared and cooked spaghetti squash with sauce until it is coated.
- Add salt and cracked pepper, grated parmesan and some torn basil. Voila!
3 – Beef It Up for a Scrumptious Bolognese
- Brown a diced onion, half green or red pepper, and a couple cloves of garlic until tender.
- Add a pound of lean ground beef and brown completely. Drain out grease.
- Add marinara sauce to the pan and cook together on medium low heat to allow the beef to absorb the flavor. If it is too think, add a little tomato sauce or a half cup or so of beef stock.
- Add a little olive oil to the spaghetti strands, and toss it with the sauce and beef. Add salt and pepper to taste and freshly grated parm. Garnish with torn basil. Done
- Substitute ground turkey for lower fat, or if beef is just not your thing.
4 – Mex it up for Taco Tuesday with Taco Boats
- Prepare squash per basic directions. Save the skins for bowls!
- Leave oven on 350.
- Brown 3 cloves minced garlic, 1 onion finely diced, 1 red or green pepper finely diced until soft.
- Add your lean beef, and cook fully.
- Drain most of the grease off the beef, then add salt and pepper to taste, 3-4 tsp chili powder, 1 1/2 tsp of cumin and mix well.
- Add a can of petite diced tomatoes, drained. I prefer the the tomatoes with green chiles to add a little heat..
- Add the filling to the squash “bowls”, place on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes to heat through.
- Sprinkle with grated mozzarella, or Mexican cheese mix. Bake until cheese melts. Approximately 5 minutes. Arriba!
5 – Saturday Night Special – Spaghetti Squash Shrimp Scampi
Spaghetti squash is for date night too! Take it from ordinary to super special by pairing it with shrimp. With it’s buttery and garlic goodness, all you’ll need to add is the salad. Oh, and wine. Cuz it’s Saturday night!
I like to kick it up a bit with some crushed red pepper, but “if you can’t stand the heat……” well, you know.
- Prepare your squash per the basic directions above.
- Season 1 pound of uncooked, peeled and deveined shrimp with salt and pepper.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter over medium heat.
- Add shrimp, 4 cloves of minced garlic, ½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper (optional) and 1 minced shallot.
- WATCH THEM CAREFULLY. Cook for just 2-3 minutes, stirring, until the shrimp turn pink and curl. Remove and keep warm
- Add the cooked squash to the pan to heat through.
- Add the zest and the juice of one lemon, and ½ cup of torn fresh chopped parsley. Cook another 1 minute.
- Stir in shrimp and serve.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Voila!
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