Spaghetti Squash – Basic Preparation

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Serves: 2 • Prep Time: N/A • Cook Time: 30-40 mins

Straight from the Forq Kitchen!
by Jacob Dean


Spaghetti Squash – Basic Preparation

Cooking your new favorite vegetable in the oven or microwave

One of the nice things about preparing a spaghetti squash is that there are really only two options for how to cook it: roast it in the oven, or cook it in the microwave. It’s fast, it’s easy, and once you comb out the cooked flesh into the spaghetti-like strands it’s named after, all you need to do is squeeze out the extra liquid and serve with your favorite sauce.

Now, a lot of recipes will tell you that you can cook the entire spaghetti squash whole, thereby doing away with the somewhat difficult task of cutting it in half. I’m here to tell you not to do this. Yes, it’s possible, but you have to remember that we’re working with a vegetable with both a tough exterior (as scientists would say, the “rind”) and a soft, fairly wet interior (the innards, or to borrow another science term, “the goop”). To clearly illustrate why these facts mean you should probably avoid cooking it whole, we’ll turn to a story from my misspent youth.

As a second-generation recipe tester, one of my most vivid memories from early childhood is of my mom testing a recipe that required her to microwave a coconut, hair and all. At the time this was a new gig for her and she had not yet realized that sometimes, when directions are really, really busted, you just can’t follow them to the letter. While she did ultimately follow the directions and set the coconut to cook in the microwave, she’s also not a fool, and we watched the cooking process while standing behind the kitchen’s sturdy swinging wooden door. Anyone with a basic grasp of physics will probably be able to guess what happened next.

Doing its thing, the microwave (aka, “the hurt locker”) heated up the coconut, including the hair, flesh, and the coconut water at its center. Heat causes water molecules to expand, creating steam, and steam needs to have room; room not available in the cramped interior of a coconut. The end result was a violent explosion, blowing the door off the microwave and showering the room with hot fragments of coconut shell.

It’s simpler and easier to cut the ends off of the squash so that you can stand it upright, and then split it in half evenly down the middle. If you run into trouble, use a wooden mallet or other sturdy object to help force the knife through the rind (a couple of good whacks should do it). After that simply scrape out the innards, place the squash face down into a baking dish, and cook until ready to convert into a pile of spaghetti-like vegetal goodness.

there are really only two options for how to cook it: roast it in the oven, or cook it in the microwave. It’s fast, it’s easy

First thing’s first: preheat your over to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Easy.

Begin the actual cooking by slicing both ends off of the squash. This is largely just to help it stand upright and you only need to cut one end to make this happen, but if you’re like me your first cut probably won’t be even. Make sure to make a nice straight cut so that your spaghetti squash stands upright, soldier-like in its dedication to eradicating your hunger.

Next, cut the squash in half. Many sources say this is difficult, but if you’re careful there’s no reason it can’t be a simple and safe maneuver. Simply place your knife on top of the now-upright squash and use a mallet (or other sturdy blunt object) to strike the center of the back of the knife, forcing it into and through the squash. Do your best to make sure your knife is facing directly downward and not at a slight angle, as we want the spaghetti squash to split into two equal halves. If you’ve done this correctly you’ll see that most of the body of the knife is now in the squash, and the top quarter (or third) is still exposed. Now that your knife has been firmly wedged in, continue to use your mallet to strike the exposed top of the knife, driving it cleanly through the squash.

Innards scraping time! Remember, the key word here is “scrape”, not “scoop”. Flip both halves so that the squash cavities are facing upward. rag the edge of a large soup spoon on the inside of the spaghetti squash and watch as the goop comes out with little-to-no effort. You may have to scoop the tiniest bit once you read the bottom of the cavity, but you’ll obtain most of the flesh with minimal fuss.

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Next, place your squash face-side down on the inside of your roasting vessel, and add enough water just to cover the bottom (the bottom of the squash, or the bottom of the pan? Is the squash sitting in the water – or just above it on like a wire cooling rack?). Cover tightly with aluminum foil and slide into your preheated oven. It’ll be in there for about 30 to 40 minutes, but you’re going to want to keep an eye on it starting at around the 30 minute mark. The timing is inexact because spaghetti squash doesn’t come in a uniform size: at roughly $2 a pound from my local market you can take your pick between small and kind of gigantic. Cook the squash until you can easily pierce the rind with a fork; at around 30 minutes the squash’s flesh should begin to be tender. If you meet any resistance when piercing, or if you get the sense that it’s still kind of crunchy, let it cook a little longer, checking every 3-4 minutes.

Once your spaghetti squash is done cooking, remove from the oven and let cool until it can be safely handled. You’ll notice that the flesh on the squash’s inside has a pronounced grain, much like beef or a piece of wood. Once it has cooled down, take a fork and scrape the inside of the squash, going with the grain. The strands should separate, spaghetti-like (magical!). After you’ve scraped the inside of each spaghetti squash half, place the scraped squash flesh into a heat-proof bowl and discard the rind.

Congratulations, you did it! Top with your favorite sauce or incorporate into other recipes as directed. Happily, we’ve also got you covered in this department. Keep looking through Forq for additional recipes to help you best utilize that spaghetti squash flesh!

Bonus Microwave Directions

Ok, you’ve mastered the traditional way of cooking a spaghetti squash, but did you know it can be an even easier process?. Simply follow all of the directions above up until the point where you would place the squash in the oven, and instead place it cut-side down in a microwave-safe container and add just enough water to cover the bottom (of the squash?). Microwave on high for 10 minutes and check to see if the spaghetti squash is tender. If not, microwave for 5 minutes more. The only downside is that you will almost certainly need to microwave each half of the spaghetti squash separately, but it’s as easy a cooking method as you can hope for with no difference in end product whatsoever.

Directions

Here’s how to make this delicious recipe

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the squash on a sturdy cutting board and trim each end, approximately 1/8th of an inch, taking care to make straight cuts.

Place squash upright on your cutting board and slice in half. If necessary, use a mallet (or other sturdy blunt object) to help force the knife through the squash.

After splitting in half, clean the squash and place cut side down in a large oven proof roasting pan.

SS_basic_prep_5

After splitting in half, clean the squash

Add about 1/2 inch of water to the bottom of the pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil.

Place in the oven and roast until tender, approximately 30 to 40 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool on a counter until squash can be easily handled.

Once cool, scrape the interior of the squash with a fork until all of the flesh has been removed from the rind.

SS_basic_prep_4

scrape the interior of the squash with a fork until all of the flesh has been removed from the rind

Place cooked spaghetti squash into a dishtowel or large piece of cheesecloth. Squeeze firmly to remove as much excess liquid as possible. Serve while still warm or reserve to be used in other recipes as directed.

Ingredients

  • 1 large spaghetti squash (approximately 4 pounds)
  • water


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Who’s Cooking Today

Jacob Dean

Jacob Dean is a freelance food and travel writer, recipe tester, and culinary product reviewer based in Washington, D.C. He is a regular contributor to The Cook’s Cook Magazine, DCist, Industree, has freelanced as a recipe tester for the New York Times, and has been published by the Washington Post. Jacob has tried over twelve hundred unique beers (he keeps count).
You can find him online at jacobdeanwrites.com, on Twitter as @SchadenJake, and on Facebook as Jacob Dean Writes.

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