If you’ve never made spaghetti squash before, there are two things you should know: It’s easy, and it’s kind of magical. To prep, carefully slice the oblong-shaped veggie in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Lightly brush or rub the cut sides with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet, cut side down, and bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes. After you take it out of the oven, let it cool a bit. Then, with the cut side facing up, run a fork along the length of the squash from one end to the other. The flesh will come away from the outer skin in thin strands that look just like angel hair pasta.
Using spaghetti squash in place of traditional pasta significantly slashes your intake of calories and carbs. (Spaghetti squash is also naturally gluten-free, of course.) One cup of cooked wheat spaghetti packs about 220 calories; compare that to just 40 calories in the same size portion of spaghetti squash. The swap also saves you nearly 30 grams of carb. And perhaps best of all, spaghetti squash is a rich source of antioxidants and blood pressure-regulating, bloat-busting potassium.
Once your squash is cooked, there are many ways to enjoy it—hot or cold, and sweet or savory—any time of day. Here are five of my favorite recipes from my own kitchen.
Spaghetti squash with sautéed spinach, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, and onion
In a medium pan over low heat, sauté a half teaspoon of minced garlic, one quarter cup of minced yellow onion, and a half teaspoon of Italian seasoning in one tablespoon of EVOO. And a half cup of baby spinach, 10 sliced cherry tomatoes and three to four sliced white button mushrooms. Saute for four to five minutes. Add a few fresh sliced basil leaves and serve veggie mixture over one cup of spaghetti squash. For a complete meal, add a protein source, like three to four ounces of cooked salmon or chicken breast, or a half cup of cannellini beans.
Spaghetti squash with almond butter-ginger-garlic sauce
Thin two tablespoons of almond butter with one and a half tablespoons of warmed veggie broth. Stir in a half teaspoon each of minced garlic and fresh grated ginger, and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Coat spaghetti squash with the almond mixture and top with a protein of your choice.
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Spaghetti squash lettuce boats with tahini sauce
Mix two tablespoons of tahini with one teaspoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice, one half teaspoon of minced garlic, and one eighth teaspoon each of sea salt, cayenne pepper, and ground cumin. Set aside. Spoon two tablespoons of cooked squash into each of four large outer romaine leaves. Top each lettuce boat with some protein, like an ounce of wild salmon or a few tablespoons of lentils, and drizzle with the tahini sauce.
Spaghetti squash, apple butter, and fruit
For a sweet side or dessert, toss a half cup of spaghetti squash with a quarter cup of apple butter or pumpkin butter. Add one cup of fruit, like chopped apple or pear. Sprinkle with about 10 golden raisins and garnish with two tablespoons of toasted pumpkin seeds.
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Spaghetti squash with maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger, and chopped pecans
For another sweet treat, whisk together a half tablespoon coconut oil, one teaspoon of maple syrup, and one quarter teaspoon each of ground cinnamon and fresh grated ginger. Toss a half cup spaghetti squash with the mixture and top with one quarter cup of chopped pecans.
For more simple ways to enjoy spaghetti squash, try these tips:
- Serve a breakfast omelet or scramble over a bed of spaghetti squash.
- Whip a half cup of strands into a fruit smoothie.
- For an easy side dish, toss squash strands with marinara sauce, pesto, or olive tapenade.
- Add a scoop of warm or chilled spaghetti squash to a garden salad.
- Stir spaghetti squash into broth-based soup in place of noodles.
Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets.