Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: Try spaghetti squash instead of pasta

Spaghetti squash makes a nice, light change from carbo-heavy pasta

Local squash of all varieties are everywhere now and I’m looking forward to using my favourite recipes again, unlike when I was a kid  and my poor mom heard a lot of “eeeuuus’’ from the eight of us if she tried any other recipe than baking it with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon.

The thing about squash is that it’s cheap and amazingly versatile. There are great recipes for squash soups, casseroles, coffee cakes, muffins, and so much more.

It can be boiled, baked, microwaved, barbecued and broiled, and it’s low-calorie. For a simple way to increase the amount of veggies in your diet, skip the pasta and use spaghetti squash instead; one cup of this squash has only 42 calories and 10 grams of carbs. For comparison, whole-wheat spaghetti has 176 calories and 37.7 grams of carbs — a huge difference!

The fastest way to cook the spaghetti squash is to microwave it! If microwaving a solid, heavy squash intimidates you a bit, you can also bake the spaghetti squash in the oven, which takes an hour to do, but is just as easy.

You’ll take a sharp paring knife and carefully stab the squash in several places all over.  It’s a hard squash, so it takes a bit of effort to do this. Microwave on high for 10-12 minutes, rotating the squash halfway during cooking. After cooking, let the squash sit there for a few minutes to cool down a bit. Put on oven gloves and remove hot squash. I tend to under-bake spaghetti squash a bit, so it still retains a slight crunch. Baking time really depends on how big your squash is — try to get the smallest one, especially if you’re only feeding four people.

It’s ready if you can pierce the squash with a paring knife with little resistance.

Today’s first recipe is a good one to try for those who say they “hate” squash; it’s very good.

The second recipe is a delicious low-carb, lower calorie, and gluten-free alternative to traditional pasta dishes, this stuffed spaghetti squash is full of Italian flavours. It can be easily made vegan by leaving off the cheese.

Squash-Hater’s Spaghetti Casserole  (Squash they’ll love)

1/2 lb. chopped bacon

1/2 cup diced onion

1-1/2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms

1/4 cup butter or margarine

6 cups hot, cooked and drained spaghetti squash

1/2 cup cooked petite peas

2 beaten egg yolks

1 cup whipping cream

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Fry chopped bacon in skillet until bacon is almost crispy. Add onion and mushrooms; cook until bacon is crispy and veggies are cooked. Drain off fat.

Mix butter into hot squash until melted. Fold in bacon, onion, mushrooms and peas.

Whisk egg yolks and cream together and mix into squash;  stir in 1/2 the parmesan cheese. Mound squash mixture into 1/2 squash shell or casserole dish, cover with vented plastic wrap, and microwave on high for 7 to 10 minutes, tossing twice, until sauce thickens. (I like to bake it 20 minutes instead.) Top with remaining parmesan.

italian stuffed spaghetti squash

1 spaghetti squash

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped

10 oz. sliced white mushrooms, chopped

1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (I used the packed-in-oil kind, drained)

1 tbsp. dried Italian seasoning blend (or combination of your favourite Italian spices)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup Italian cheese blend, shredded

First, cook your spaghetti squash. You can use the method above or try this. Microwave squash until it’s soft enough to cut in half lengthwise (5 minutes).  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds and loose flesh. Put squash, shell side up, on baking sheet and bake in oven about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and green pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook another 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add tomatoes, seasonings, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Remove from heat.

Using fork, scoop out flesh of spaghetti squash into large bowl. Add mushroom mixture to squash and stir to combine. Put half the mixture back into the shell of one squash half and the rest into the shell of the second half. Top each shell with 1/4 cup cheese. Put shells back onto baking sheet and broil in oven about 5 minutes, until cheese is melted. Serve immediately.


Vernon Morning Star