by Lauren Chattman
Tis the season of mysterious-looking squashes—Blue Hubbard, Delicata, Carnival, Buttercup — overflowing from bins at area farm stands. You may think that they exist to stand beside your pumpkin, adding variety to your doorstep or tabletop décor. But the football-shaped spaghetti squash isn’t merely decorative. It is easy to prepare (just halve, seed, and roast in a hot oven for a half-hour) and a good source of vitamins A, C, and a couple of Bs as well as calcium and folate. It has a mild, sweet flavor that makes it a good match for assertively flavored herbs, spices, and grated cheeses. With its spaghetti-like texture it lends itself to all kinds of interesting and appealing pasta-like preparations.
Pick one up when you are picking up your Halloween pumpkin, and give it a try. When shopping for spaghetti squash, look for unblemished specimens with a uniform pale yellow color (or bright orange if the farmer has grown the hybrid Orangetti variety) and an intact stem of 2 to 3 inches. A green tinge indicates that the squash was harvested too early. Like other winter squash, spaghetti squash will keep on the countertop for several weeks. In fact, it benefits from “curing,” which simply means holding it at room temperature for 10 to 20 days. During this time, the squash’s skin will harden, its interior will continue to ripen, and, amazingly, any wounds will heal. So you can use your freshly picked spaghetti squash to decorate your kitchen in harvest style before roasting it for dinner.
Although it is a good source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, four ounces of cooked spaghetti squash has only about 40 calories, which makes me wonder why no one has written “The Spaghetti Squash Diet Cookbook.” I know that I could never write that book, since my favorite ways to prepare this vegetable include tossing it with plenty of extra-virgin olive oil, sourdough bread crumbs, and black pepper; mixing it with sautéed crumbled Italian sausage, the last of this year’s cherry tomatoes, and chopped fresh basil; saucing it with pumpkin seed and parsley pesto; or baking it with cream and Gruyere cheese in a gratin dish.
Another fun thing to do with spaghetti squash: Test your children by serving it to them. Some kids will taste it and exclaim with delight, “Wow, this healthy vegetable looks just like spaghetti!” Others will take one bite, indignantly shout, “This is nothing like spaghetti!” and have a hard time trusting you for several months afterwards. My husband brought home a beautiful specimen from Quail Hill on Saturday, and last night I prepared it, looking forward to the kids’ reaction. To my surprise, they both responded positively (last year this was not the case at all, so I had to forget about trying to convince them that roasted Brussels sprouts tasted like candy). Maybe it was because I added a good-size knob of butter and some fragrant chopped fresh sage to the dish for luxurious flavor. Here is the recipe:
Spaghetti Squash with Sage
Sage gives this dish just the right woodsy aroma and taste for early Autumn, but other soft fresh herbs, such as basil, cilantro, parsley, and/or oregano can be used similarly. You can stir in ½ cup or more of grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano to transform this into a simple vegetarian supper for 2.
One 2 /12-pound spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
2 teaspoons olive oil
Ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Brush the cut sides of the squash with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lay the squash halves on the baking sheet, cut sides down, and roast until a skewer can be inserted easily into the flesh, about 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Use two forks to scrape the strands of spaghetti squash away from the skin and into the pan. Add the sage and cook, stirring, until the squash is coated with butter. Season with salt and pepper and serve.