Pasta

An Obvious—But Underused—Way to Devour Spaghetti Squash

by:
December  1, 2017

Of all the winter squash, perhaps spaghetti squash has the most undeserving reputation for being boring. There’s lots of competition—butternut, acorn, kabocha and delicata—all adorning the farm stands this time of year. Spaghetti squash may not seem special at first, and it may not be obvious how much potential there is beneath its less-than-gorgeous pale skin, but I decided to explore its possibilities. You should too.

My path from the farmers market to this recipe wasn’t a straight line. Because I hadn’t cooked with spaghetti squash for a long time, I scoured food sites and cookbooks for inspiration. Many recipes and ideas go beyond topping its spaghetti-like strands with marinara sauce, such as this tangle of roasted, boldly-spiced strands, various stuffed versions, and creamy casseroles and gratins.

But though supporting casts may vary, spaghetti squash plays common, often predictable roles in most recipes: a low-carb stand-in for pasta, noodles, rice, and potatoes.

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Noticeably absent from my searches were recipes that combine pasta and spaghetti squash, which surprised me: spaghetti with spaghetti squash just seems so obvious, even if a little cheeky. Pasta recipes with butternut squash abound—whether the butternut is pureed into a smooth sauce or left in bite-sized cubes—so why not pair spaghetti with spaghetti squash?

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Top Comment:
“At the grocery store today they had a bin of mixed squash and one with only spaghetti squash. It does deserve its own bin. To me, it's the star of the squash family. I have so many ways that I prepare it. My simplest, and one of my favorites, roast it until tender. Scoop out flesh, add real butter, fresh ground pepper, a bit of salt and freshly grated parmesan. Or a sausage red sauce is always wonderful topped with mozzarella. ”
— BerryBaby
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With a fall-ish spaghetti dish in mind, I paired roasted spaghetti squash with the bold flavors of pancetta, golden onions, preserved lemon, sage, and pecorino. (Crispy, fatty pork and preserved lemon are a favorite flavor duo of mine.) I tossed the roasted squash strands with the spaghetti as a final step, envisioning they’d cozy up together for some noodle-on-noodle action, kind of like in this summer squash pasta. The roasted strands...immediately disintegrated and turned to mush.

Can you see me? Photo by Rocky Luten

So when making the dish again, I treated the spaghetti squash with more care. I sautéed the roasted strands (along with the onions, preserved lemon, and sage) until lightly caramelized to coax out more flavor, then ladled in the pasta’s starchy cooking water to help the strands relax and soften. Once tossed with the spaghetti, a mound of grated pecorino, and a little more cooking water, the squash strands transformed into a light, salty-sweet sauce with enough texture to cling to the noodles, but not to weigh them down. And unlike sauces made from butternut squash, this one required no trip to the blender, resulting in a more cohesive pasta and sauce. The finished dish was just right: cozy and comforting, with spaghetti squash’s mild sweetness acting as the perfect foil to the crispy, salty bites of pancetta and puckery preserved lemon. I was surprised by how much the squashy spaghetti looked like spaghetti carbonara when piled high in my bowl, yet with a taste and texture uniquely and deliciously its own.

Spaghetti squash proved to me it can be so much more than faux spaghetti or low-carb standby. It can take on versatile new roles if just given the chance, and maybe even one-up butternut and its other winter peers in the process.

What are your thoughts on spaghetti squash? Let us know in the comments!

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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9 Comments

tastysweet December 7, 2017
Can one purchase the preserved lemon. It's something I don't usually have.
 
ann December 7, 2017
At Savory Spice shop, Wegmans, Sur la table, I'm betting amazon too. I always buy because I am too lazy to make. :)
 
tastysweet December 7, 2017
Thanks Ann
 
ann December 7, 2017
yummy. thanks for the new idea. I usually use it to make enchilada bowls or with bolognaise sauce.
 
Author Comment
EmilyC December 10, 2017
You're welcome--hope you enjoy this, Ann!
 
BerryBaby December 2, 2017
Love spaghetti squash! At the grocery store today they had a bin of mixed squash and one with only spaghetti squash. It does deserve its own bin. To me, it's the star of the squash family. I have so many ways that I prepare it. My simplest, and one of my favorites, roast it until tender. Scoop out flesh, add real butter, fresh ground pepper, a bit of salt and freshly grated parmesan.<br />Or a sausage red sauce is always wonderful topped with mozzarella.
 
Author Comment
EmilyC December 3, 2017
Thanks for sharing these ideas! I definitely have a newfound appreciation for spaghetti squash so I love to know how others use it!
 
Starmade December 4, 2017
Me too, not usually parmesan on a ripe and fairly fresh squash - just butter and pepper - lots of both - and a judicious amount of salt. I understand the parmesan if the squash is a little sub par or dried out later in the winter. I never understood the addition of acidic elements or tomato sauce as you can't taste the squash so well.
 
Starmade December 4, 2017
I like the idea of sauteeing the strands and the use of onion and pancetta in this recipe though - it could be another worthy way to complement the squash flavor without overwhelming it.