Squashes have been grown for thousands of years, and have been selectively bred for a variety of desirable characteristics. Many varieties have a tendency to fall apart into fibrous strands when cooked. This was considered a shortcoming until recently, when growers began to recognize that the strands of some squashes resembled noodles. Now spaghetti squash is a popular variety, needing very little preparation beyond cutting and cooking.
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Cutting a Whole, Cooked Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti squash is often cooked whole, either by baking it in the oven or by boiling it in a large pot of water. Simply bake the whole squash on a sheet pan at 325 degrees Fahrenheit until for about one hour until fork tender, or boil for 25 to 30 minutes. When the squash is cool enough to handle, slice it in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and pulp with a spoon. Flake the flesh into a large bowl with the tines of a fork, separating it into "noodles." Prepare as desired, or package for freezing.
Halving a Raw Squash for Baking
The flavors of spaghetti squash may be improved by baking it in halves, which concentrates the flavors and encourages caramelizing. To prepare the squash, lay it out on a clean cutting board. Shave a small strip from one of the sides with a large knife, making a flat surface. Roll the squash onto the flat side and cut firmly through the middle with the point of the knife. Rock the blade downward to finish the cut, then reverse the squash and cut again from the middle to the other end. Seed the halves and bake cut-side down.
Cutting a Raw Spaghetti Squash into Pieces
It is relatively rare to cook a spaghetti squash in pieces, but some recipes call for this. Begin by peeling with a sharp peeler or paring knife. Tough skins may be loosened by boiling the squash for two minutes or microwaving on high for three. Once the rind has been removed, lay the squash on a cutting board. Trim the bottom so that the squash will stand up flat. Cut vertically into halves, and remove the pulp and seeds. Cut the halves vertically into strips, then stack the strips on their sides and cut in half. Cut once more, crosswise, into dice.
Serving Suggestions for Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti squash is often served with tomato sauce, like spaghetti, but there are many other things to do with this versatile vegetable. Use it with a pinch of nutmeg as a filling in a quiche, or as the main ingredient in a casserole. Add it to stir fries, or use it as a filling in Asian salad rolls. It is especially good when added to noodle dishes as a complement to wheat or rice noodles, adding moisture and a textural contrast. In southern Italy, spaghetti squash is sometimes combined with orange zest and pulp to make jam.