Your favorite pasta impersonator just got a whole lot easier to make. In about 15 minutes in the microwave, you can turn a rock-hard spaghetti squash into a bowl of tender "noodles," ready for some sauce. I'll even throw in a trick for making it easier to slice the squash in half. What are you waiting for?
You've probably seen these big yellow orbs at the supermarket on your way to the butternut and acorn squashes and wondered what the big deal was. The big deal is this: These squashes naturally grow in such a way that, once cooked, the squashy insides will pull apart in long, spaghetti-like strands. No tricks. No science lab hijinks. Just Mother Nature being awesome.
These long squash strands are definitely noodle-like in many ways: They are tender enough that you can twirl them around your fork; they have a mild, slightly sweet flavor that makes them great for everything from serving with tomato sauce and cheese, to tossing into a skillet for some sneaky pad Thai; and they even look enough like spaghetti to fool the casual observer.
They are, however, still squash. Even when completely cooked until tender, the strands will still have a bit of crunchiness to them. I really love this texture, especially in hearty "pasta" bakes and "noodle" stir-fries with other vegetables, but they're probably not going to fool your three-year-old. No, it's not exactly pasta, but it's still really good!
If you've never had spaghetti squash before, it's worth a try — especially when making it in the microwave is so quick and easy.
Spaghetti squash, like most winter squashes, is a hard beast to crack in half. In the past, I've gone at it with my chef's knife, a folded towel to protect my hand, and some muscle power. Then I read a great tip in the comment thread on our post How To Cook Spaghetti Squash in the Oven.
"If you're having trouble cutting a squash open, score it with a knife and microwave it for a few minutes. It should cut in half much easier after that."
This works! It still takes some muscle power and you still have to watch your fingers, but I no longer feel like I'm doing battle with a kraken every time I cook a squash. After some trial and error, I've found that about five minutes in the microwave seems about right — you may end up needing to adjust this based on your particular microwave, but five minutes is a good place to start. Scoring it helps guide the knife, and poking it a few times with a fork lets steam escape.
To be very clear, here, this step is just to soften the outside slightly and make the squash easier to cut. I do not recommend microwaving the whole squash for longer than a few minutes since this can cause steam to build up inside the squash and create a dangerous situation (even with vent holes poked through the shell).
Once the squash is cut in half and you've scooped out the seeds, just flip it upside down in a baking dish, fill it with about an inch of water, and microwave until soft. This usually takes another five to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the squash and your microwave.
You can cook both halves at once, or cook just one half and save the second half to cook another day. Dealer's choice.
These squash noodles can be used interchangeably with regular noodles in your favorite pasta dishes. Personally, I like squash noodles best when used in pasta dishes with a hearty sauce and a good amount of melted cheese, where the crunchy texture is a little less noticeable. They also really shine in baked "pasta" dishes — a few of my favorites are below!
1 spaghetti squash (3 to 4 pounds)
Microwavable baking dish or pie dish
Lightly score the squash where you will cut it in half: Use a paring knife and cut into the squash 1/8- to 1/4-inch deep from stem to bottom on both sides. This is the line where you will be cutting the squash in half.
Poke the squash in a few places with either your paring knife or a dinner fork: This creates vents to allow steam to escape during the initial cooking of the squash.
Microwave the squash for 5 minutes: Place the squash in the baking dish and microwave for 5 minutes on high. This cooks the squash a little bit and makes it easier to cut in half. Do not microwave the whole squash for longer than 5 minutes since this can cause steam to build up inside the squash and create a dangerous situation (even with vent holes poked through the shell).
Cut the squash in half: Use oven mitts to remove the baking dish with the squash from the microwave. Place the squash on the cutting board and use a chef's knife to cut all the way through to the middle of the squash — start to one side of the stem, cut through the bottom, and then cut the other side of the squash up to the stem. Use your hands to pull the two halves apart and break the squash at the stem (don't try to cut through the stem). The squash will still be hard when you cut it and you'll need to use force, but less than if the squash was raw.
Scoop out the seeds: Save the seeds for roasting, if you like!
Season the squash halves (optional): If you like, rub a teaspoon of olive oil into the squash, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. This is just for flavor if you're serving the squash on its own; you can skip if it if you're planning to use the squash in a recipe or want to season it after cooking.
Flip the squash halves upside down in the baking dish: You can cook each squash half separately if your baking dish is too small to fit both, or cook both at once. You can also save one half in the fridge to cook later.
Fill the dish with about 1 inch of water: The exact amount isn't important; you just want the squashes to be partially submerged and to have enough water to create steam in the microwave.
Microwave on high for 5 minutes.
Check the squash: When done, a fork poked through the skin should slide easily into the squash. Continue microwaving on high for another 2 to 5 minutes as needed.
Scrape the squash strands from the inside: Remove the baking dish using oven mitts and transfer the squash halves to a cutting board. Use a fork to scrape the strands of squash from the inside. You should get 6 to 8 cups of "noodles" from a 3- to 4-pound squash.