Nutriton Corner: Is spaghetti squash a winter or summer squash?

September 3rd, 2015 12:27 pm

After some discussion, I learned that spaghetti squash is categorized as a winter squash. The internal flesh is lower in carbohydrates than other winter squashes, but the outside has the same tougher skin.

If you are not familiar with spaghetti squash, it will certainly surprise you. On the outside, it looks much like any other winter squash. But when you cook it and open it up, you find that the flesh is made up of long, spaghetti-sized strands after running a fork through.

The spaghetti squash looks like a little golden watermelon and generally weighs between 3 and 4 pounds. This is a vegetable that came to this country from the east and is rapidly becoming a popular favorite as people become more familiar with it. You can really surprise your friends by being the first in your neighborhood to introduce this unique new gourmet delight that can be served in so many different ways.

Spaghetti squash, unlike other winter squashes, is low in calories. One cup has only 30 calories, 2 grams of fiber and 7 grams of carbohydrates. It’s a great way to enjoy pasta without all the guilt.

Here is how to cook spaghetti squash:

• First, wash the squash, and then pierce the surface of the squash in several places with a fork. Either boil, microwave or bake the squash using cooking instructions below, but cook the squash until the shell gives to pressure.

• To boil, cover the whole squash with water and place on simmer for 45 minutes or until soft when pricked. You can also bake the squash whole along with your meal. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a 350 degrees F oven for 1–1/2 hours or until shell gives to pressure; turn squash after 45 minutes.

• To microwave, cut squash in half lengthwise and clean out seeds. Place squash cut side up in a dish with ¼ cup water. Cover with clear wrap, vent and cook for 7-8 minutes.

• Once the squash is tender, cut and scoop out seeds. Using a fork, start from the top and run the fork several times through the flesh of the cooked squash pulling the strands free with a fork. Continue until all the squash is out of the skin. Lift out and place in serving bowl.

• Top with your favorite spaghetti sauce and enjoy, or try this recipe.

Spaghetti squash with tomatoes, basil, and parmesan

1 spaghetti squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1 Tablespoon olive oil

3 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons dried basil (or 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped)

1 cup cherry tomatoes (thinly sliced)

Pepper (to taste, optional)

Place the two squash halves, cut side down, in glass baking dish. Add about 1/4 cup water and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high 12 minutes or until soft when pressed. Let stand covered for 3 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk oil, basil, oregano and 2 Tablespoons Parmesan. Stir in tomatoes and season lightly with salt and pepper to taste. Scrape squash out with a fork, add strands to tomato mixture and toss until combined. Sprinkle with remaining 1 Tablespoon Parmesan cheese.

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Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at mre2@psu.edu.


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