Meatless Monday: With Spaghetti Squash, Simple Really Is Best
I blame it all on my friend, Viv.
While discussing the meaning of life over apple pie and coffee last week, we shared our love for autumn produce, namely sweet potatoes and winter squash. On her counter sat a celadon beauty called a Jarrahdale, which she had planned to transform into a puree with pears and chestnuts. Somehow we got talking about spaghetti squash, the yellow football-looking variety that yields spaghetti-looking strands when cooked.
I’ll admit, I’ve long avoided the spaghetti squash, assuming nothing tasty could come of squashy strands when I could have velvety chunks or creamy puree instead. Diet fanatics traditionally team it up with tomato sauce as a low-carb stand-in for a bowl of noodles. Thanks, but I’ll take the real thing, has always been my response.
My friend dutifully heard my squashy concerns, then dished out some advice on what to do with the yellow football. “Don’t cut it in half,” she isntructed. “Put the whole thing in the oven and let it cook. When it’s whole, it steams inside, and might even take less time to cook.”
And the tomato sauce idea? Banish the thought, my friend argued. “Think simple,” she said. “Good olive oil, salt, pepper, some grated Parmigiano. That’s it.”
After we said our goodbyes, I immediately went to the supermarket and made a beeline for the spaghetti squash. I zoomed home, cranked up the oven to 400 degrees and placed my edible football on the top rack.
An hour later, the yellow skin had turned brown and brittle, like a hard-boiled egg. With a pair of pot holders, I retrieved the squash and immediately cut it in half to allow the steam to escape (and for it to stop cooking).
With a large spoon, I scooped out the web of seeds and then with a fork, raked the strands, transferring them to a bowl. With my friend’s voice in my ear, I seasoned liberally with salt, pepper, olive oil and Parm. The results were delightful – “al dente” strands that really do act like pasta, but without the gluten bomb. The flavor: slightly sweet, somewhat herbaceous; the texture: slightly grainy, in a good, toothy sort of way — I have a feeling that overcooked spaghetti squash is just as unpleasant as overcooked pasta.
Should you try to argue that spaghetti squash takes a helluva lot longer than a pot of pasta noodles, here’s my retort: While the squash roasts, you get downtime — to pour a glass of wine, to reflect on the day, to make a salad and to get your very simple mise en place together. And did I mention the house smells great while you wait?
Next time: I may go wild and throw in some chopped walnuts and fresh parsley to the Parm-oil mix. But I will keep saying no to tomato sauce.
Simply Roasted Spaghetti Squash
1 spaghetti squash, at least 2 pounds
Good quality olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmigiano, grated, at least ¼ cup
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place squash directly on the top rack of the oven or in a small roasting pan (on a shallow cookie tray, it will roll around).
Roast for at least 50 minutes: Skin will turn brown and brittle.
Remove from oven and immediately cut into half. Beware of steam. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then with a large spoon, scoop out seeds in the middle of each half.
With a fork, “rake” the strands from top to bottom and transfer to a serving bowl. Season with olive oil, salt, pepper and cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Eat hot or at room temperature.
Makes at least 4 side-dish servings.