Spaghetti squash is a large, round squash that forms spaghettilike strands when it’s cooked. Its texture is crisp, its taste is mild, and it can indeed replace spaghetti in the recipe of your choice. This is especially good news if you’re searching for an alternative to pasta, either because you’re allergic to gluten or because you’re seeking a more nutritious landing pad for a delicious sauce.
Spaghetti squash can be steamed, roasted or cooked in the microwave. Whatever method is used, the squash cooks much faster if you start by slicing it in half. But you have to be careful — sawing through its thick skin can be dangerous. Happily, just a few minutes in a microwave will soften up the squash enough to alleviate this danger.
After cooking the squash and halving it, I finish it off in the microwave, which tenderizes it in 17 to 20 minutes rather than the 30 to 45 minutes required when it’s steamed or roasted.
When the squash has cooled, use a fork to scrape out the strands. Having prepped the squash to this point, you can store it in the refrigerator for a few days until you’re ready to prepare a sauce and finish it, an option you can’t employ with actual pasta that, because of its starch content, turns into a big gummy wad of stuck-together strands. (You can also freeze spaghetti squash.)
After scooping out the squash strands, add them to the creamy goat cheese sauce, then simmer them for 5 minutes while they soak up the flavor. Again, this is something you can’t do with actual spaghetti, which would not only become too soft but also completely absorb all of the sauce if you simmered it at length.
You can pair spaghetti squash with any sauce you would add to regular pasta. Just remember to let the spaghetti squash cook in the sauce — whatever kind it is — for a few minutes before serving.
SPAGHETTI SQUASH WITH CREAMY GOAT CHEESE SAUCE AND SHREDDED ZUCCHINI
By Sara Moulton
- 1-1/2 pounds zucchini
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 (3- to 3-1/2 pound) spaghetti squash
- 1-1/2 cups sliced onion
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
- 4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
- 1 ounce grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
Coarsely grate zucchini, preferably using the grating disk of a food processor, toss it in a colander with the salt and let it drain for 20 minutes.
Prick spaghetti squash in 3 or 4 places with a skewer and microwave on high for 4 minutes. Cut in half and microwave for 5 minutes. Scrape out and discard seeds and microwave again for 8 minutes or until the strands of squash are easy to scrape out.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook onion in oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 8 minutes.
Working a handful at a time, squeeze zucchini tightly to get rid of excess moisture. Add squeezed zucchini to onion and cook over medium heat, stirring for 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; don’t clean skillet yet.
Let spaghetti squash stand until it is cool enough to handle, then scoop out all the strands (you should end up with about 4-1/2 cups).
Add broth, 1 cup water, sage and goat cheese to skillet and bring to a boil, whisking.
Add spaghetti squash strands, cover and simmer 5 minutes. until squash is tender.
Add zucchini and cook 1 minute more, until mixture is heated through.
Stir in Parmigiano-Reggiano, more salt and pepper to taste, then transfer to 4 bowls and top each portion with one-quarter of the nuts. Serves 4 to 6.
Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 326 calories, 19 g total fat, 7 g saturated fat, 43 mg cholesterol, 582 mg sodium, 31 g carbohydrate, 8 g fiber, 14 g sugar, 14 g protein.