I have a confession. I am a whole food-based, gluten-free, low carb diet promoting dietitian. But my favorite food, of all foods, is spaghetti. Actually, any type of wheat-based, highly processed, white pasta is exactly what I love. I could eat spaghetti for every meal, every day. I occasionally do indulge, but most of the time I successfully stay away. Lucky for me it’s fall right now, so the solution to my little food craving dilemma is pretty easy to come-by: the spaghetti squash. I know a squash can never truly replace real pasta, but it does take the edge off my craving.
Spaghetti squash provides a big nutritional benefit over wheat spaghetti in that it only has 31 calories a cup, 7 grams of carbohydrate, a ton of fiber, and is full of vitamin A, C, and B6. Pasta can have around 150 calories a cup (5x as much!), 30 grams of carbohydrate, and very little fiber. Most of the vitamins and minerals found in pasta comes from fortification by manufacturers and don’t naturally occur in the food.
This awesome squash is also super easy and fast to whip up during the week when you are feeling rushed as it can be roasted or microwaved. Usually, I microwave it since I am always pressed for time and it takes about 10-15 minutes. Today I roasted it since it is Sunday and I wasn’t in a hurry. Here are the basic instructions:
- Wash the outside of the spaghetti squash. We tend to forget to wash the outside of vegetables with thicker skins (squashes or melons), but unfortunately bacteria from the outside can get transferred to the internal edible part once you cut into it.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the spaghetti squash in half, length-wise and scrape out the seeds. I believe you can roast the seeds similar to how you would roast pumpkin seeds, although I have never tried it myself. It is easier to get the seeds out without losing the delicious “meat” if you do it while it is raw, although it can be hard to cut the squash if you don’t have a very sharp knife.
- Once the seeds are gone, season the squash with salt, pepper, herbs (I did oregano and garlic powder) and drizzle with olive oil. Place on a roasting pan or cookie sheet.
- Put squash in the oven and roast for 35-45 minutes until the meat is tender and can easily be shredded by a fork.
- Once the squash is done, allow it to cool for about 10 minutes before trying to remove the “spaghetti”.
- Use a fork to shred the “spaghetti” out of the squash and place into a bowl.
Now what to top it with? There are so many different things you can do with it, as it is just as versatile as pasta. Here are some of my favorites:
- Easiest: jar of pre-made pasta sauce with leftover chicken on top.
- Homemade meatballs in tomato sauce over spaghetti squash.
- As a side dish, add herbs, butter, and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
- Topped with any combination of vegetables cooked in butter: bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, and zucchini.
- Or if you are feeling really decadent, spaghetti squash alfredo with cream sauce on top.
In the fall, I tend to cook spaghetti squash at least once a week. It helps substitute my craving for regular pasta and is just as tasty.