Why substitute spaghetti squash for spaghetti when you can have it with spaghetti? As this dish shows, spaghetti squash can be much, much more than a stand-in for noodles. By roasting spaghetti squash first, then scooping out and sautéing its flesh until lightly caramelized, its flavor concentrates, and its spaghetti-like strands relax and dissolve into a light sauce with just enough texture to cling to pasta rather than weigh it down. Because the sauce is built in the pan, it’s simpler than butternut squash sauces that are pureed until smooth with a blender, and the spaghetti and sauce are more cohesive as a result. Spaghetti squash does best when paired with bold flavors, and this squashy spaghetti is full of them: pancetta, sage, golden onions, preserved lemon, and pecorino. The finished dish reads a lot like spaghetti carbonara on the surface, but with a taste that’s uniquely and deliciously its own.
Tip: Feel free to use other types of pasta (such as penne, shells, or linguine) instead of spaghetti. If you don’t have preserved lemon, add the zest of a large lemon when sautéing the onion and sage, and finish the dish with a few squeezes of lemon juice. —EmilyC
4 to 6
spaghetti squash, about 2 pounds
olive oil, divided
Kosher salt + freshly ground black pepper
thick-cut pancetta or bacon, cut into cubes
small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
finely chopped fresh sage
red pepper flakes, or to taste
diced preserved lemon peel (from about 1/2 a large preserved lemon)
finely grated pecorino romano (parmesan can be substituted), plus more for serving
In This Recipe
Heat oven to 400° F. Optional step: microwave spaghetti squash for 4 to 5 minutes to make it easier to cut, and to speed up its roasting time.
Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Sprinkle cut sides with salt and pepper, and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Roast, cut-side down, on a rimmed baking sheet until the interior is fork tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes, then scoop out the strands with a fork. Set aside 2 cups, saving any remaining squash for another use.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add pancetta, and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to a small bowl; set aside. Leave 3 tablespoons of fat in pan, supplementing if needed with olive oil.
Over medium heat, sauté onion, sage, red pepper flakes, and preserved lemon peel, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly golden and tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.
While the onion mixture is sautéing, add the spaghetti to the boiling water. Cook according to package directions.
When the onion is tender, add the spaghetti squash. Sauté a few minutes to lightly caramelize the squash, running the back of your spoon across the squash to increase the surface area that browns and to help the strands relax and dissolve. Ladle in 1 1/2 cups of the spaghetti’s cooking water and bring to a moderate simmer, stirring frequently, for another few minutes. Its strands won’t completely disappear but will form a light, cohesive sauce with the pasta water.
Add the spaghetti to the skillet (reserving another cup of pasta water), and turn the heat to low. Toss together the spaghetti and the sauce until evenly coated, adding more pasta water, if needed. Add the pecorino and toss again until evenly integrated, then add the pancetta. Serve warm, with extra pecorino on the side, if desired.