According to specialtyproduce.com, the first known record of spaghetti squash was made in 1850. A short 163 years later, I made my own first record of it in a crowded restaurant in downtown Manhattan, in the form of an iPhone note.
Yes, I was a little behind the curve (the low-carb craze had hit the U.S. many years earlier), and yes, I was already several decades into my life—both facts featured prominently in my note. But most important, as outlined in all caps, was a single question: "WHY HAVE I NEVER HAD THIS BEFORE?"
My first dalliance with spaghetti squash involved its shredded flesh, served much like pasta would be (in a buttered and salted nest), topped with bolognese sauce. The squash was at the same time nothing like noodles—softer, sweeter, shorter on a per-strand basis—and everything like noodles: satisfying, cozy, rife for complementary saucing.
Accordingly, I've since learned it makes an excellent standalone dish, too. It's perfect tossed with olive oil, nutty Parm, and spicy breadcrumbs, or simply buttered and salted. But actually making it at home proved to be a bit intimidating, at least initially. After some trial and error, here's my go-to method:
How to Cook Spaghetti Squash
1. Preheat Your Oven & Prep the Spaghetti Squash
Turn your oven to 400°F, to preheat. Prep a sheet pan by lining it with parchment paper. (Note: The parchment paper isn't totally necessary, but expedites clean up.)
2. How to Slice Spaghetti Squash
Meanwhile, back on the counter, slice your squash in two lengthwise. This is easier said than done—the method I like to use to avoid slipping is as follows: Use your heaviest, sharpest chef's knife to carefully trim about 1/2-inch from the top and bottom of the squash, so you can easily stand it up on its bottom. Then, from the flat top, cut down the length of the squash until it's in two pieces.
3. Clean It Up
Scoop out the squash-y guts and seeds from the center of each piece with a spoon.
Drizzle each of the cut halves with about a tablespoon of olive oil (or a high heat–friendly neutral oil, like avocado oil, if you prefer). Season the cut sides liberally with kosher salt and pepper. If you like, you can add other accoutrement here as well (i.e., cut little slits into the squash and add pieces of garlic, sprinkle with cayenne pepper, etc.).
5. Roast Until Tender
Place each half, cut side–down, onto the parchment-lined sheet pan. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes (check closer to 30 for a smaller squash), until you can easily pierce the flesh of one of the cut sides with a fork, and the edges are getting caramel-y and golden. You don't want to overcook the squash, as it'll lead to limper strands once you shred it.
6. Shred Into Strands
Remove from the oven and let it cool until you can handle the halves. Grab a fork and, starting from the edge where flesh meets peel, shred the cut sides until it looks like spaghetti.
Top or serve as desired (see below for ideas). The squash will keep covered in the fridge for three to five days.
Of course, this isn't the only way to tackle a spaghetti squash. You might be wondering, "Can I cook it in the microwave? Or Instant Pot?" Well, former Food52er Ali Stafford has you covered:
"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," she says.
"[And] 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."
Ella Quittner is a a writer at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner.