On August 15th, I received my CSA’s e-newsletter, which noted a spaghetti squash would be arriving in the following day’s share. Spaghetti squash, I learned, ripen before other winter squash, but a mildew problem meant this year’s crop needed to be harvested immediately. The note assured me I could keep the squash for weeks in my cool kitchen. And so I did. But in the weeks that followed, more spaghetti squash arrived, and before I knew it—long before I cared to be leaping headlong into winter squash season—I had a nice collection of spaghetti squash on my countertop. It was time to turn on the oven.
I scoured my favorite vegetable-focused cookbooks and online sources for inspiration, which quickly led me to discover two things: 1. Recipes designed specifically for spaghetti squash are few and far between, and 2. the ones that exist call for bold—often rich, sometimes bright—flavors.
I started with a roasted spaghetti squash gratin layered with mushrooms sautéed in butter and then simmered in cream, finished with a blanket of Parmesan cheese. This, while delicious, felt better suited for Thanksgiving than post-Labor Day. Before moving onto a recipe calling for a heap of Gruyère cheese and a garlic-and-parsley compound butter, I poked a little deeper into Deborah Madison’s The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.
There, I found a sidebar titled "Sauces and Seasonings for Winter Squash" with a list of inspiring dressings—chermoula, harissa, salsa verde, and gremolata—whose bold, fresh flavors reminded me of a Tamar Adler recipe for roasted sweet potatoes dressed with chiles and shallots macerated in lime juice and showered with tons of fresh herbs.
I gave my spaghetti squash a similar treatment, and this preparation felt right—slightly spicy, assertive yet light, appropriate fare for the Indian summer I’ve been relishing. I served the squash at room temperature, but found it particularly refreshing cold: When the squash strands firm up in the fridge, the dish transforms, tasting almost like a raw vegetable slaw. Sweeter varieties of winter squash (like delicata, butternut, and kabocha) need little more than salt, pepper, and a pat of butter. Not so for spaghetti squash, which can taste a little bland. But its sturdy texture is so nice—spiralized by nature!—and as lovely a vehicle for a warm, spicy tomato sauce as this cool, sharp dressing.
A few tips on cooking spaghetti squash:
If you have the time, I think it’s easiest to cook spaghetti squash whole. Simply puncture it a few times with a knife, place it in a buttered baking dish, and roast it at 375° F for about an hour (for a 3-pound squash, or longer if larger), until it's lightly browned in spots and easy to pierce with a knife.
If you are pressed for time, you can halve the squash before cooking it, scoop out the seeds, and roast it face down in a greased baking dish for 30 to 40 minutes. If you have a microwave or a pressure cooker, you can cut the time down even further. For a pressure cooker, cut the squash into big chunks—no need to remove skins or seeds first—place them in the pressure cooker, add water, and cook on high for 15 minutes. For a microwave, cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, place face down in a buttered microwavable dish, add water to cover the bottom of the dish in a thin layer, and microwave on high until soft, 15 to 20 minutes.
More ideas for spaghetti squash:
Inspired by Deborah Madison's gremolata idea, I made a lemon-parsley version: Toss the roasted shredded spaghetti squash with 2 tablespoons melted butter or olive oil, a heaping half cup of grated Parmesan cheese, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly cracked pepper to taste, and 1/4 to 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley. Toss, taste, and adjust with more salt, pepper, and lemon to taste. A minced garlic clove would be a nice addition here.
And turn leftovers into squash patties: Simply combine leftover squash (about 2 cups) with cooked rice, quinoa, or other cooked grain (about 1 cup). Add one egg and some flour (start with 1/3 cup) and mix to combine. Form into patties—it’s okay if the mixture feels wet. Heat grapeseed or canola or another neutral oil in a skillet over medium heat. Make a test fritter by frying up a small patty, cooking it for 2 to 3 minutes a side. Taste. Adjust seasoning with more salt or more flour if the patty isn’t sticking together. Once your test fritter passes muster, fry up each patty for about 5 minutes per side or until evenly golden.
- 3 pounds spaghetti squash (about 1 squash)
- 1 small red onion, finely diced
- 1 hot chile, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice, plus more to taste
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 3 tablespoons melted coconut oil or olive oil
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro, plus more to taste
How do you make spaghetti squash its best self? Tell us in the comments.