Ingredient Introduction #15 – Spaghetti Squash

A little part of me died the day the Atkins Diet debuted.

I shed a tear at the thought of anyone being deprived of toothsome, fulfilling, fork-entangling pasta.

Over the years, I’ve improved my method of carb gobbling. I go for whole grain, or whole wheat noodles. And of course, moderation is key. If you order spaghetti at a restaurant they give you a whole box of it, which costs around a buck, and they charge you $10-$14 for it.

In honor of one of my favorite ingredients, I’ve gone after something that’s supposed to be a substitution.

I mean, how can anything that has the word “spaghetti” in it steer you wrong?!

Meet the spaghetti squash.

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From the outside it kind of resembles the love child of a big potato and a honeydew melon. It also has the look of a pumpkin that was absent the day nature handled out the infamous Halloween hue.

In its raw form, this winter squash looks like any old squash on the inside.

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You scoop out the seeds and any gunk in the middle. It smells a lot like a pumpkin… you know, when you cut open the top of one on jack-o-lantern carving day and it’s all stringy and seedy and pungent?

There are all kinds of ways to cook it. You can boil it, roast it, even nuke it. Some recipes say to roast it cut side up, others say cut side down. Some say to put it in a dish with a bit of water, then wrap it in foil. Others say to put it on a cookie sheet and let ‘er go. Some will tell you to roast it whole. Whatever you do. Don’t cut it into chunks. That’ll ruin the end result.

It’s up to you. But, roasting takes time. Still, that’s the method I like. I feel like you always lose nutrients by using a bubbling pot of water.

Here’s how I did it:

Preheat the oven to 375.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Then drizzle each side with olive oil. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper.

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Place the halves cut side up onto a baking sheet and roast for 30-40 minutes. They’re done when a knife goes into the rind easily.

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Let the halves cool till you can pick them up.

Using a fork, rake out the flesh. It’ll come out in strands.

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You can use this just as you would spaghetti.

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I served it under chicken Marsala.

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The squash has the consistency of al dente pasta. The big difference between this and the real deal is the texture. It’s not chewy and pillowy. It’s kind of like zucchini or good ol’ yellow squash. The flavor is pretty much the same.

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Another big difference is that the sauce doesn’t stick to it. It lacks the starchiness of real pasta.

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Overall, I didn’t mind it. I don’t really ever feel guilty about eating a big bowl of spaghetti, but subbing this takes away any risk of carb-gobbling remorse.

In terms of carbs, you’ll save 30-33 grams per cup by having spaghetti squash.

And if you’re a fatty sauce lover, (::cough cough:: Alfredo ::cough cough::) the swap will help offset that, just a tad.

Oh, and I took leftovers for lunch the next day. The squash wasn’t mushy or watery.

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After having the Marsala dish, I realized that a thick tomato sauce would probably play nicer with the spaghetti squash. The acidity in the tomatoes would offset the somewhat bland nature of the stringy substitute.

As far as servings go, one half should be enough for one person.

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So here’s the deal. I liked the spaghetti squash, and if I ever have to give up pasta, I know that I can turn to the stringy squash. But until that sad time comes, it won’t be a permanent replacement.

Tip: Never coat freshly drained pasta with olive oil. You may think it’ll keep the noodles from sticking together, but in reality, it keeps your sauce from sticking to them.

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