Spaghetti squash is a medium-sized winter squash with an oblong shape, a creamy yellowish skin, and a relatively mild, neutral flavor. It's characterized by the way its cooked flesh separates into long strands resembling noodles—hence, the name spaghetti squash.
What Is Spaghetti Squash?
Also known as vegetable marrow or noodle squash, spaghetti squash is a medium-sized squash with a hard outer rind that generally grows to around 12 inches in length and 6 inches in diameter, and weighing 4 to 8 pounds. It's a cultivar of the Cucurbita pepo group, which includes summer squash such as zucchini and crookneck squash, as well as winter squash such as acorn and sweet dumpling squash. Because they are winter squash, they're typically available during the late autumn and early winter months.
Spaghetti squash might not overpower you in the flavor department, but the neutral flavor makes it a great candidate for pairing with various sauces, especially tomato-based sauces, but also cream sauces, as well as simple sauces of butter or olive oil.
How to Cook With Spaghetti Squash
The unique thing about spaghetti squash is the way its flesh can be shredded into long, noodle-like strands. This is possible because of the way the natural fibers in the flesh wrap themselves around the major axis of the fruit body, creating a "grain," not unlike the grain produced by the bundles of muscle fibers in a piece of meat.
To prepare spaghetti squash, cut it in half and scoop out the pulp and seeds before cooking it. Usually with an oblong squash, your instinct will be to cut it lengthwise. However, because of the direction of the grain, in order to obtain the longest strands, it's actually best to halve it crosswise, so that you end up with two round halves, rather than two elliptical halves. This will make scooping out the pulp and seeds a tiny bit more difficult, but you'll get longer strands. It's also a bit easier to halve the squash crosswise rather than lengthwise.
Once it's halved and cleaned, you can brush the flesh with a bit of olive oil or melted butter, and season it with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Most preparations involve cooking them in the oven on a dry sheet pan, or in a baking dish with a bit of water in it, cut side down, for 30 to 45 minutes—depending on how much crunch you want it to have. Steaming it can cause it to turn out watery, whereas roasting it helps to cook away excess moisture. You can also cook it in the microwave, which takes 10 to 15 minutes.
To a certain extent, the optimal amount of crunch is related to how much and what type of sauce you're serving it with. If you're serving spaghetti squash with a thick, hearty tomato sauce, you might want the strands to be a bit more on the crunchy side. But if you're just serving it with olive oil and Parmesan cheese, you might want it a bit softer. It's up to you.
Whatever your preference, it's best to start checking for doneness early to check for optimal texture. Overcooked spaghetti squash won't form strands at all; it will just turn into mush.
What Does It Taste Like?
Spaghetti squash has a mild, neutral flavor and a crunchy texture. Its flesh can be a little on the watery side, although this diminishes in proportion to how long it's cooked (along with its crunchiness). While it doesn't taste like spaghetti, it can definitely be served as an alternative to spaghetti or other noodles, such as the rice noodles used for making pad thai.
A 100-gram serving of spaghetti squash contains about 92 percent water, and provides 31 calories, 7 grams of carbs, and 1 gram of fiber along with negligible fat and less than 1 gram of protein.
Spaghetti Squash Recipes
Here are a few recipes written specifically for spaghetti squash, but feel free to experiment with substituting spaghetti squash for ordinary pasta or noodles in other recipes that call for them. Spaghetti squash can be a great substitute if you are following a gluten-free diet, for example.
Where to Buy Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti squash is widely accessible. It can be found at farmers' markets and supermarket produce departments during the autumn and winter months. Look for squash that feels firm and heavy for its size, and that's free of soft spots or damage to the skin.
A whole, uncut spaghetti squash will keep for 2 to 3 months when stored in a cool place away from sunlight. Once it's sliced, it will keep in the fridge for about 5 days. You can also freeze spaghetti squash.