This week I had a Mischief match-up with a culinary creature I’ve had my eyes on for a long time—the formidable Spaghetti Squash. I grew up with Yellow Crookneck in casseroles; I’ve been bored by Zucchini for years; and I’m best buddies with the Butternut. So it was time to tackle the Spaghetti Squash.
Tell you what—it was fascinating! Of course, since my primary daily interaction is with Peter the Kat, my perception of “fascinating” could be a bit off. But seriously…playing with this squash was really cool. (Yes, I am a food nerd).
It was kinda a violent process. First, I had to stab it with a big fork. My instructions said, “Pierce with a fork.” I was like, “Once? Twice?” So of course I took the Norman Bates approach (cue the strings) and stabbed the hell out of it. Into the oven at 400 for an hour.
After I let it cool, I took my honkin’ big knife to it, split it in half, and removed the seeds. Now came the part that I was curious about. All the recipes I’d read said that you use a fork to scrape out the insides into “spaghetti-like” strands. I was thinking this would be laborious, and that the “strands” would be a direct result of my skillful fork-gouging. Not so!
I barely had to scrape at all…the insides just fell out in spaghetti-like strands! It was the strangest thing…it wasn’t mushy or tough, just fibrous. And it looked just like spaghetti! It reminded me of my genius moment upon tasting mustard greens for the first time and exclaiming, “They taste like mustard!” I never claimed to be bright, folks.
So the real question is…what to do with this spaghetti-like substance? I found a recipe from Cooking Light and used it as a guide…Spaghetti Squash Gratins with Chunky Tomato Sauce. I liked it because it sounded hearty…plus, each gratin only has 117 calories, which is like eating air!
The recipe is a great start. Here’s the gist of it, with my additions in parentheses. Basically, you layer the cooked squash (which I tossed with salt and pepper), chunky marinara (I added mushrooms, tons more garlic, a little balsamic, and various and sundry spices…you could easily doctor up a jar), and top with a mixture of fat-free ricotta, parmesan, and fresh oregano (I added two TBSP of egg beaters to loosen up the mixture). Then just bake at 400 for 45 minutes.
The result…it was delicious! Let’s be honest—it wasn’t pasta, but with the rich Italian flavors mixed in, it gave the same good feeling you get from Italian food…without all the crazy fat and carbs. Plus, it made 8 ramekins; we each ate two for dinner, along with a grilled chicken salad, which means we have 4 more in the freezer. It’s rare that I look forward to leftovers, but I can’t wait to eat these again!
Playing with the squash is a process—you have to roast it for an hour before you can work it into a recipe. But it’s really easy. I totally recommend giving it a go. Like I said, it’s not going to fool anyone as a pasta substitute—I’m not going to make Fakey Jake Fettucini Alfredo with it. But baked with a tasty sauce like the recipe above, it’s perfectly delicious—and a fun, mischievous departure from traditional Italian fare.
Have a great weekend—and if you get bored, go grab a spaghetti squash and take your aggressions out on it. 😉