Fall is here and, although we don’t know how long it will last this year, that doesn’t mean that we can’t make all of our favourite fall recipes.
A popular dish at this time of year is squash. Even though most people identify squash as a vegetable, from a botanical standpoint, they're considered fruits because they contain the seeds of the plant. Squash, along with corn and beans, are believed to have originated in Mexico and Central America where they were eaten 7,500 years ago. American Indians shared many varieties of squash with the European settlers, who took the seeds back to their countries. Today, squash and pumpkins are grown all over the world.
Squash are divided into two categories - summer and winter squash. An example of a summer squash would be a zucchini, whereas winter squash include butternut squash, pumpkins and, our personal favourite, spaghetti squash.
Spaghetti squash is a great substitute for pasta or noodles. It’s packed with nutrients and low on calories, making it the perfect fall indulgence.
So you bought a spaghetti squash and now you're staring at this canary-yellow gourd wondering how on earth it could ever be transformed into anything resembling pasta. You're full of doubts and hopes and perhaps a dash of healthy skepticism. I get that. I once had a friend tell me that spaghetti squash was too hard to make because she tried to scrape it all out of the shell while it was still raw. It must have been as hard as a rock! Don’t worry, we are here to help and once you know how to properly cook it, you will realize just how easy it is and it might become part of your weekly menu rotation.
How to Properly Cook a Spaghetti Squash in the Oven
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Slice the squash in half: Use a chef's knife to cut the spaghetti squash lengthwise from stem to tail. Spaghetti squash are really tough and hard, so be cautious and work slowly. You can cradle the squash in a balled-up dish cloth to keep it steady as you cut.
- Scoop out the seeds: Use a soup spoon to scrape out the seeds and stringy bits of flesh from inside the squash. Be careful of actually digging into the flesh, though — that’s the part you want to eat! The inside should look clean and fairly smooth. Discard the seeds (or save them and roast them for a snack!). Have your kids help you with this step. it’s a great way to get them involved!
- Place the squash in a roasting pan: Place the squash halves cut-side down in a roasting pan.
- Pour in a little water: Pour enough water into the pan to cover the bottom, about and inch and a half of water.
- Cook the squash for 30 to 45 minutes: Smaller squash will cook more quickly than larger squash. Check the squash after 30 minutes to gauge cooking.
- Take the squash out when it is tender: The squash is ready when you can easily pierce a fork through the flesh all the way to the peel. The flesh will also separate easily into spaghetti-like strands. You can also taste it right now — if the noodles are still a bit crunchy for your taste, put the squash back in the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes.
- Scrape out the squash: Use a fork to gently pull the squash flesh from the peel and to separate the flesh into strands (kind of like pulled chicken or pork). The strands wrap around the squash horizontally — rake your fork in the same direction as the strands to make the longest “noodles."
- Serve the squash: Serve the squash immediately with your favourite pasta sauce. Our favourite week night meal is to add a jar of store-bought pesto and pan fried shrimp (wild caught) and top with roasted pine nuts. Easy Peasy!