It seems as if everywhere I turn, there’s a new recipe for spaghetti squash pasta or bowls or bakes.
And I want to be on board, I really do. But can I admit something?
Spaghetti squash is not my favorite squash. So far as I can tell, it isn’t as sweet, as satisfying, or as hearty as, say, kabocha or red kuri or butternut. Also, it tends to pop up frequently alongside the words “low carb,” and, sadly, this carb-lover has deemed it guilty by association.
Lest you think I harbor a bias against vegetable “noodles,” I swear I don’t. I love spiralized zucchini and carrot and sweet potato as much as the next person, and maybe even more (though I don’t really see them as a “substitute” for pasta—more like a “delightful reimagining” of pasta).
But spaghetti squash doesn’t taste anything like noodles: It tastes like mush. Healthy, slightly sweet mush, to be sure, but mush all the same. And when you top it with pasta sauce, it becomes all the mushier. I have no problem with mush—a lot of my culinary best friends are mushy (hummus, guacamole, mashed potatoes, I’m looking at you).
It’s a question of context: When I hear about a meal that’s supposed to evoke the experience of eating pasta, a bowl of mush is not what I’m expecting.
When my editor at Food52 and I discussed the idea of spaghetti squash, her question was “Is it possible to make spaghetti squash taste good?” I responded that I honestly wasn’t sure, but that I was up for the challenge. I had two goals:
- Offset the mushy texture of spaghetti squash by creating a hearty and textured sauce (rather than a marinara or a vegan cream sauce)
- Add flavor to the squash by packing plenty of tomato, garlic, and heat into the sauce
As it turned out, I love the resulting dish. In truth, I love it mostly for the very easy white bean “ragoût,” which can also be served on traditional pasta, on top of quinoa or another cooked grain, or even over toast. But for the first time, really, I found myself savoring the spaghetti squash, too. Maybe a little texture was all it took, or maybe—having dropped my own limited ideas about how spaghetti squash is supposed to be cooked—I gave myself a chance to enjoy it.
I doubt that spaghetti squash will become a go-to for me, or that I’ll ever choose to serve it without a super flavorful sauce. But for now, I have proof that it can taste good—really good, in fact—and that’s enough of a reason to keep trying it.
For the squash:
- 1 large whole spaghetti squash
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- kosher salt and pepper
- Garlic powder, to taste
For the white bean ragout:
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 white or yellow onion, diced
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced (adjust to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
- 1 dash crushed red pepper
- One 14 1/2-ounce can fire-roasted, diced tomatoes
- One 8-ounce can tomato sauce
- 1 1/2 cups cooked cannellini, navy, or Great Northern beans (or 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed)
- 1 tablespoon organic sugar, or 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- chopped fresh parsley (optional, for serving)
What's your favorite way to prepare spaghetti squash? Tell us in the comments below!