Our family discovered spaghetti squash, MUCH to my 7-year-old boy’s chagrin, when we first went grain-free two years ago. When cooked properly (i.e., not too mushy), it makes a pretty decent substitute for spaghetti.
My husband, who doesn’t eat squash or any mushy orange vegetable of any kind, actually likes it – again, as long as it’s done up right.
Your family members who won’t touch a squash with butter, salt, and pepper really might give it a chance with spaghetti sauce and cheese. It’s a totally different beast.
If you have spaghetti squash in season in your region, grab a couple. A squash will stay fresh at room temperature for months; spaghetti squash is a little more tender and delicate, so I’d just give it weeks instead.
But – they’re almost prohibitively expensive at 99c/lb. regular price throughout the year in our grocery stores. An average sized squash for 1-2 meals would come out to over $5, definitely more than the pasta it’s replacing! I like to get them at $1 each, and I’m hoping to buy an entire half bushel today.
Pale yellow, oblong in shape, and totally nondescript, especially compared to other squash shapes this time of year. The flesh is pale yellow as well, and the photo below shows how the spaghetti squash comes out of the shell – it’s so cool! You just pull it out with a fork, and it creates strings that look just like pasta. I’m telling you, it’s wild.
How to Cook Spaghetti Squash
Try a simple spaghetti squash meal by baking the squash:
Put whole in the oven while it warms up, about 10 minutes, to soften the hard outer shell (may not be necessary). Cut in half, scrape out seeds, and place facedown in a centimeter of water in a baking dish. Bake 30-45 minutes at 350-400F until a fork can easily pierce the skin. Try not to overbake or you’ll start to lose some of the “noodle” definition and get “mush.”
Then simply top with hot spaghetti sauce with meat, just as you would pasta.
You can also serve it as a simple side dish with butter, salt and pepper, or add some Italian herbs and a can of diced tomatoes.
It’s possible to freeze the cooked spaghetti squash, too – I’ll be doing that more this fall than last. Shoot for “al dente” since you’ll be cooking it again to reheat for sure.
If you’re wondering whether yours is done enough, if it’s pliable, it’s done. I like it best a teeny tiny bit al dente, and it’s really not a nice experience if it’s mushy. Trust me.
I love this additional element that gives you basically a free snack that’s totally healthy. The seeds in a spaghetti squash act just like pumpkin seeds when roasted, so save them and bake them up for munching! Here are my instructions on how to make crispy pumpkin seeds (soaked, Nourishing Traditions style).
If you really want a squash-hater to love your spaghetti squash, try this delicious, nutritious, low-carb lasagna recipe.
- ½ lb. ground beef
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 1 green pepper or 1 red pepper or both, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1-3 c. jar spaghetti sauce
- 4-6 c. cooked spaghetti squash (1 large)
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- 1½ c. ricotta cheese
- 1½ c. shredded mozzarella, divided
- ¼-1/2 c. Parmesan
- Bake spaghetti squash by cutting in half, scooping out the seeds, and laying face down in a baking dish with about 1 centimeter of water in it. Bake at 350-400F for 30-45 minutes, until a fork can easily pierce the skin. You can make it easier to cut by putting the whole thing in the oven during the preheat, about 10 minutes.
- This step can be done anytime before the meal; use the squash chilled if cooked the day before (save energy and bake it with dinner), or bake it right in the lasagna pan to save a dish.
- To assemble the lasagna, put a few spoonfuls of spaghetti sauce in the bottom of a 9x13” pan.
- In a large pot, brown beef; add onions and peppers, cook until limp. Browning the onions adds an incredible layer of flavor to the entire dish. Add garlic for last 2 minutes.
- Mix in spaghetti sauce.
- Meanwhile in a bowl, mix the squash with the salt, pepper, ricotta cheese and 1 c. of the mozzarella.
- Layer in pan with half the squash mixture, half the beef mixture, the remaining squash and the remaining beef. Top with ½ cup mozzarella (at least) and all the Parmesan.
- Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes until bubbly around the edges.
* Ground sausage would be great, too!
* Could also probably fill in a cup or two of the spaghetti squash with shredded zucchini.
* Got too many tomatoes? Sliced toms under the top layer of cheese is a magnificent addition.
* Cottage cheese is a good sub for half the ricotta; makes it a little lighter feeling in my opinion.
* Could yogurt cheese be used for part or all of the ricotta? I haven't tried it, and it wouldn't really be melty, but that's what the mozzarella is for anyway, right?
* You could always add other vegetables, like greens, to this dish, and fresh herbs would be wonderful.
* The bigger version: use 6-8 c. squash, a whole pound of beef, 2+ c. each of the cheeses and 2 jars sauce. It still fits in a 9x13, but just barely!
2 Tools for Real Food Success:
It’s never easy to keep up with real food goals! If my meal isn’t planned ahead and/or I don’t have the right food on hand, it’s SO tempting to give up and grab convenience food!
I have to almost trick myself into getting it right sometimes…like this:
I love my raw milk farm, and they usually have beef for me too – but not all the cuts. And chicken is hard to come by. And pork is hit or miss.
I’m sure you’ve experienced the same sourcing frustrations!
That’s why I’m always grateful that there’s an online source of incredibly high quality meat that I can always count on. A box from Butcher Box is guaranteed to be grassfed/organic/pastured/free range = all the labels important to your family’s health!
If you live in an area (like my mom) where organic local farms are nowhere to be found or have trouble sourcing certain meats or cuts, Butcher Box has you covered.
(free shipping too!)
But if I forget to plan ahead, all that amazing meat just sits in the freezer! Enter Real Plans, an online meal planning software that is probably smarter than I am.
I can enter that cut of meat along with my food restrictions and find the perfect meal, then generate a shopping list, multiply it by 4 if we have company, and enter my own fav recipes too.
Real Plans takes the stress out of meal planning and puts the nourishing food BACK on your table. There’s a plan for every diet type:
Enjoy the recipe!
Other fall squash recipes:
- Roasted winter vegetables
- Savory Greek Sausage Stuffed Squash
- Monday Mission: Try Some Squash
- Grain-free Pumpkin Pancakes (or squash)
This is perfect if you’ve just been told you need a GF diet, if you have a friend or family member eating GF and you’d like to cook for them, or if you’re just curious what it’s all about!
See my full disclosure statement here.