Pasta is an easy food to like, combining versatility and nutrition at a relatively low cost. For those who are wheat-sensitive or reluctant consumers of processed carbohydrates, spaghetti squash provides an interesting alternative. Its long strands look much like spaghetti or vermicelli on your plate and provide an equally good base for your favorite sauce. Like other vegetables, they're best when unblemished, but you can work around a few bad spots if you get a good price or if they've been too long in storage.
Squashes are usually grouped into two broad categories. Summer squashes have pale, mild-flavored flesh and are relatively perishable, while winter squashes are dense, sweet and yellow or orange in color. Spaghetti squashes fall somewhere in the middle. They're winter squashes with a hard skin and reasonably good storage life, but most varieties have pale, delicately flavored flesh that tastes more like a summer squash. A few are hybridized with other winter squashes to give the flesh a deeper flavor and more appealing golden hue.
Forget Me Not
Many of the larger and sturdier winter squashes can keep for several months if they're kept in a cool place with good air circulation. Spaghetti squash isn't one of the champions for long storage, usually keeping its best quality for only three to four months. If they've been bruised during the harvesting process or damaged in shipping, they'll develop soft or dark spots that can be detected by eye or by pressing that area with a fingertip. If they're not well ventilated, mold can grow at the stem end or any damaged areas of skin. If you're storing your own harvest, check and turn the squash regularly to minimize unnoticed spoilage.
If you've found a spaghetti squash in your storage area that's beginning to show signs of damage or if you've gotten a bargain price on one from your local greengrocer because of its spots, you need to cook it as quickly as possible to prevent the damaged areas from spreading. Halve the squash and seed it as you normally would, then use a sharp paring knife or a larger utility knife to cut away the soft or damaged spots. If mold has spread to the seed cavity or if the squash shows damage from animal pests, it should be discarded.
Recovering Your Wounded
Once any damaged areas are cut away you can cook the spaghetti squash normally. In most cases, that means baking it cut-side down on a sheet pan until it's tender enough for a toothpick to pierce it evenly. Alternatively, you can wrap it in heavy foil and roast it on your grill to impart a faint hint of smoke and caramelization. Once the squash has cooled enough to handle, use a fork to scoop out the long shreds of flesh. Serve them immediately with your favorite sauce, or cool and package the strands for later meals.
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