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How to Cook Spaghetti Squash

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Spaghetti Squash

With many people embracing the gluten-free trend and no-grain lifestyle, “vegetarian pastas” are becoming all the rage nowadays. This is great because highly processed grain products, like conventional, ready-to-cook pasta and wheat noodles, can drive up your insulin levels, since they convert to sugar in your body.

You’ve probably heard of zucchini as a wonderful pasta alternative because of its al dente, noodle-like texture, but did you know that you can use another type of vegetable to satisfy your pasta craving? Get to know more about spaghetti squash, its many health benefits and how to cook it properly. 

The Origins of Spaghetti Squash

A popular variety of winter squash, spaghetti squash (Cucurbita pepo) is a long, oblong-shaped yellow vegetable that can measure anywhere between 8 to 14 inches long.

It is named as such simply because when cooked, the flesh (which is pale yellow) separates into thin, spaghetti-like strands. It’s also called vegetable spaghetti, noodle squash, vegetable marrow and even “squaghetti.”1

Unlike other squash varieties, which were originally cultivated in the Americas, spaghetti squash’s origins can be traced to Asia, specifically China.

It eventually made its way to the United States in 1936, and during World War II, Americans planted spaghetti squash in their victory gardens. However, this vegetable only became highly popular in the late 20th century.2

When cooked, spaghetti squash has a mild flavor that can complement or absorb the flavors of the other ingredients it’s cooked with. Aside from being a pasta alternative, this vegetable can also be sautéed or added to bakes, gratins or casseroles.3

This Versatile Noodle Alternative Is Reaping With Nutrients

Thanks to its low-calorie and low-carbohydrate attributes, spaghetti squash works as a wonderful pasta substitute, especially for those who want to lose or manage their weight. According to The Science of Eating:4

“One cup of cooked spaghetti squash only has 42 calories, compared to a cup of cooked pasta with over 200 calories. It only has 10 grams of total carbs, which is [one-fourth] the amount you get from pasta.”

But that’s not where the benefits end, as spaghetti squash offers a wide array of nutrients, such as:5

  • Lutein and zeaxanthin — These antioxidants have been linked to optimal eye health.
  • Beta-carotene — This nutrient is crucial for people with insulin resistance and has been found to help prevent atherosclerosis by lowering your bad cholesterol levels.
  • Vitamins A and C, plus B vitamins — Vitamins A and C are helpful in preventing free radical damage in cells, while B vitamins, namely niacin, riboflavin and thiamin, all help promote optimal cellular function.
  • Folate — Not only does it support the formation and development of new cells, but it also helps prevent birth defects, making spaghetti squash an ideal addition to a pregnant woman’s diet. Folate also helps filter out homocysteine from your blood, which can be beneficial for your heart health.
  • Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids — They promote proper brain and overall body function, as well as help prevent inflammation, heart disease, arthritis and cancer.
  • Potassium — This mineral helps maintain ideal muscle and nerve function, and is essential for regulating blood pressure levels.
  • Manganese — This nutrient assists in tissue and bone heath and promotes proper metabolism, calcium absorption and nerve function.

What’s the Best Way to Cook Spaghetti Squash?

You can roast, bake, boil or steam spaghetti squash, all of which will give you the noodle-like texture you need for pasta dishes. Some websites also recommend using the microwave to cook spaghetti squash, but I do not advise this, as microwaving foods may alter their nutritional composition.

You’re better off with the traditional cooking methods below. Simply choose the process that you can work with the best. 

How to Roast Spaghetti Squash

Ingredients:

  • 1 organic 3 lb. spaghetti squash
  • 1 Tbsp. Dr. Mercola’s coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp. Dr. Mercola’s Himalayan cooking salt

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and then scoop out the seeds.
  3. Brush oil on the inside, sprinkle with salt and place in an enameled cast iron pan face up.
  4. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until tender.
  5. Remove from oven and let it cool for 15 minutes.
  6. Use a fork to gently pull the squash flesh from the peel to separate the flesh into strands.
  7. Note: If you find it too difficult to cut the squash in half, try cooking it whole by following the directions below.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash Whole

Ingredients:

  • 1 organic 3 lb. spaghetti squash

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Prick the squash all over with the tines of a fork.
  3. Place whole squash on a baking sheet and roast for approximately 1 hour. Turn once halfway through baking.
  4. Slice the squash horizontally and gently scrape out the seeds and pulp.
  5. Then follow step 6 listed in the roasting procedure above.
  6. Note:  You’ll know the squash is ready when the fork can easily pierce the outer peel and all the way through to the center of the squash.

How to Steam Spaghetti Squash

Ingredients:

  • 1 organic 3 lb. spaghetti squash

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and then scoop out the seeds.
  3. Fill an enameled cast iron pan with approximately 1/4-inch of water.
  4. Place spaghetti squash in the pan face down and steam 30 to 45 minutes or until tender.
  5. Then follow steps 5 and 6 listed in the roasting procedure above.

How to Boil Spaghetti Squash

Ingredients:

  • 1 organic 3 lb. spaghetti squash

Procedure:

  1. Fill a large pot with enough water to completely submerge the squash. Over high heat, bring the water to a low boil. Reduce heat to medium and carefully place the squash in the water. If the water doesn’t completely cover the squash, be sure to turn it every 10 minutes or so. Do not let the water boil; keep it at a low simmer.
  2. Cook for about 30 to 45 minutes or until soft.
  3. Let the squash cool for about 10 minutes.
  4. Cut lengthwise and gently scoop out the seeds and pulp.
  5. Then follow step 6 listed in the roasting procedure above.

Try This Easy Spaghetti Squash Pasta Recipe

When cooked, spaghetti squash will have a texture similar to angel hair pasta: tender and chewy yet slightly delicate. Nevertheless, you can take a fork and twirl the noodles around it without them disintegrating.6

As for the taste, don’t worry; it’s pretty mild, unlike acorn and butternut squash, which have a sweet and earthy taste when cooked. This makes spaghetti squash an excellent pasta alternative — it goes great with any sauce without overpowering the flavor of the dish.7 Here’s one pasta recipe you can try — a quick and simple dish that you can serve anytime.

Ingredients:

  • 1 prepared organic spaghetti squash
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh organic parsley, finely minced
  • 3 Tbsp. organic raw butter
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • Dr. Mercola’s Himalayan cooking salt, to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Procedure:

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan.
  2. Add parsley and garlic to melted butter and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Place spaghetti squash strands in butter mixture, mix well and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste, and then toss.
  5. Tip: Sprinkle on some parmesan cheese once you’re done cooking the spaghetti.

As Much as Possible, Buy Spaghetti Squash Organic

Winter squash ranks 25th in the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) list of fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue.8 While it’s not at the top of the list, it’s still highly recommended to buy this vegetable organic. Check out LocalHarvest.org to find farmers markets or local organic farms near you that can provide you with this crop.

Choose spaghetti squash that feels heavy for its size, with a firm, dry and rounded stem and a rind that doesn’t have any cracks or spots. Large squash have thicker strands and more flavor.9 Don’t buy squash that is shiny, meaning it’s been picked too early, as well as those with a waxy coat, as it might mean that it’s been picked too late.10

 

Sources and References

Tags: Baked, Fruits and Vegetables, Gluten-Free, Main Dishes

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