November 15, 2010

Crispy, Exciting Spaghetti Squash

I have two memories of spaghetti squash:

1) When we were kids, we had it for dinner on the deck one summer. As a longtime spaghetti lover, I was skeptical. Really guys? Some weird vegetable instead of pasta? Sounds a lot like the time Dad tried to trick me into eating anchovies. It was delicious, though. Crispy, a little crunchy, and a lot exciting.

2) My sophomore year at Ohio State, in my first kitchen that wasn't Mom's, I tried to recreate the magic. It was the first year that I made any real attempts at cooking, and I was confident that it would be fantastic. The internet told me to microwave it. I don't remember what seasonings were involved, but I do remember that it was mushy, bland, and disappointing.

Not the most glamorous vegetable, is it?

Fast forward to the present. I'm reaching for a butternut squash, and I lock eyes with a box of spaghetti squash. I decide that I'm up to the challenge. A few things have changed since I was nineteen. For one, it's been years since I could say, "I'm a teenager, I'm invincible" (Do you guys feel old sometimes?). But more importantly, I've done a few more things in the kitchen, and I no longer consider pasta with boiled broccoli and jarred sauce to be my signature dish (that's embarrassing to remember). I do still get much of my cooking advice from the internet, but I know to read the comments for helpful tips such as, "This is gross. Don't eat it."

I had to fake confidence when I got home, because the boy is around the food-maturity level of my skeptical childhood self (Vegetables? Weird. Will you make me regular spaghetti?). "It'll be great," I told him. "Crispy and crunchy and exciting. You'll love it." He didn't look confident leaving the kitchen, but to be fair, I do sometimes trick him like my dad used to trick me (mostly I add vegetables in unexpected places. I had to stop adding them underneath cheese layers; he said it was much too sneaky).

The verdict? Savory and flavorful, just a touch crispy. Even the boy was pleased. The texture is perfect, and the parmesan and garlic somehow magic a lone vegetable into something rich and satisfying. It's delightful on its own, but I like to serve it with spaghetti sauce cooked with onion, sauteed just long enough to mellow the flavor but with a little crunch and bite left in it. I've been enjoying big bowls of this with a big hunk of bread for dinner periodically for the past couple weeks, and I figured right before Thanksgiving is the perfect time to pass it on.

Crispy, Exciting Spaghetti Squash
Need an easy side for Thanksgiving? This is it. Enjoy!

1 medium spaghetti squash
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil, for brushing

Preheat oven to 400. Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds and pulp. Brush cut sides with oil and sprinkle with salt. Place cut-sides down on a baking sheet and bake for 40-45 minutes.

With a fork, scrape out the insides of the squash in strands (don't try to do big hunks at a time. You want spaghetti-like strands, not clumps). Toss with cheese and seasonings, and serve with tomato sauce and extra parmesan cheese.

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  1. I'm going to make this next week! I make spaghetti squash often and every time Brad says he wishes we were just having regular spaghetti. I think my problem is pretending it's regular spaghetti. Maybe the extra seasonings and cheese will punch it up to be a fancy vegetable instead of a "healthy alternative."

  2. Exactly, I think it's always disappointing to think of things as "healthy alternatives." I have that problem with meat replacements sometimes. I love lots of kinds of tofu, but it gets iffy when something tries to taste too much like meat, because it's really not the same.

  3. This sounds delicious. The fact that I have to make it for myself now = not so delicious.

  4. I'm not sure it would keep well in the mail, so you're on your own.

  5. I really wanted to try spaghetti squash because I know Mary makes it all the time and Brad will eat it and Brian flat out refused. Even when I told him Brad eats it. But, this has cheese in it. So I'm pretty sure I'm going to try and give it a whirl! :)

  6. Tell him Erik eats it, too, and that Erik is the pickiest eater I've ever known. He tends not to go near vegetables that aren't from a can.

  7. This is such an unusual spaghetti. You really intrigued me, I must try them.

  8. what a great blog! here is so many inspirations!

    have a nice time,

  9. You had me at cheese!I love how you prepared this dish.we love butternut squash but with this recipe, spaghetti squash looks fantastic :)