So you took a gamble on a spaghetti squash — it does have a pretty clever sales hook, after all. But now you're staring at this canary-yellow gourd wondering how on earth it could ever be transformed into anything resembling pasta. You're full of doubts and hopes and perhaps a dash of healthy skepticism. I get that.
Well, buckle up, because today we're pulling some culinary alchemy and transforming squash into tender tangles of spaghetti. No spiralizers or any special gadgets required. Just an oven and a half hour of your time.
Does Spaghetti Squash Really Taste Like Spaghetti?
The number one question you want answered before heading into this, right? The answer is yes...and also no. Once cooked, the yellow flesh of this squash will separate into long strands that you can, indeed, top with marinara sauce and twirl around your fork. The texture is like angel hair pasta — it's tender and chewy, but a bit fragile.
Now for the "...and also no" news. Even though a miracle of Mother Nature has given this squash some spaghetti-like attributes, it is still a squash. It looks like pasta and has a texture like pasta, but it's still probably not going to fool anyone. The flavor is very mild (you might even call it bland) with none of that sweet, earthy squash-like flavor we associate with butternut and acorn squash. This makes spaghetti squash the perfect companion for something like a hearty ragu or a curry — the squash's flavor won't compete with the main attraction on the plate — but you still get all that great spaghetti-like texture.
Like all winter squash, spaghetti squash requires some time in the oven before it becomes tender enough to eat. The quickest way to get this side dish on the table is to cut the squash in half and cook it face down in a baking dish. I like to add a little water to the pan or cover it with foil to help things along; the steam helps keep surfaces of the squash from drying out and makes the resulting strands of squash incredibly tender.
If chopping the squash in half proves troublesome for you (it is a seriously hard squash), you can also roast the squash whole and then cut it in half once it is tender. This takes about an hour. Check out the instructions for this at the end of the guide below.
What to Do With Cooked Spaghetti Squash
As I mentioned before, spaghetti squash has a very mild flavor. It's not something you'd necessarily serve all on its own, but it's fantastic when paired with sauces and other richly-seasoned main dishes. I also love it layered in casseroles. If I'm serving the squash as a side dish, I usually toss the noodles with a little butter or olive oil to keep them from sticking and season them with a little salt. Below are a few more of our favorite recipes here on The Kitchn.
Do you love spaghetti squash? What do you like to do with it?
1 medium spaghetti squash (2 to 3 pounds)
Sharp chef's knife
Medium-size roasting pan or baking dish
Preheat the oven to 400°F: Preheat the oven while you prep the squash.
Slice the squash in half: Use a chef's knife to cut the spaghetti squash lengthwise from stem to tail. Spaghetti squash are really tough and hard, so be cautious and work slowly. You can cradle the squash in a balled-up dish cloth to keep it steady as you cut.
Scoop out the seeds: Use a soup spoon to scrape out the seeds and stringy bits of flesh from inside the squash. Be careful of actually digging into the flesh though — we want that! The inside should look clean and fairly smooth. Discard the seeds (or save them and roast them for a snack!).
Place the squash in a roasting pan: Place the squash halves cut-side down in a roasting pan.
Pour in a little water (optional): Pour a little water in the pan, enough to cover the bottom. Your squash will roast just fine without it, but I find that the water helps the squash steam and become more tender. You can also cover the pan with aluminum foil, if you prefer.
Cook the squash for 30 to 45 minutes: Transfer the squash to the oven and cook for 30 to 45 minutes. Smaller squash will cook more quickly than larger squash. Check the squash after 30 minutes to gauge cooking.
The squash is done when tender: The squash is ready when you can easily pierce a fork through the flesh all the way to the peel. The flesh will also separate easily into spaghetti-like strands. You can also taste it right now — if the noodles are still a bit crunchy for your taste, put the squash back in the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes.
Scrape out the squash: Use a fork to gently pull the squash flesh from the peel and to separate the flesh into strands. The strands wrap around the squash horizontally — rake your fork in the same direction as the strands to make the longest "noodles."
Serve the squash: Serve the squash immediately, tossed with a little butter or olive oil. Spaghetti squash will also keep refrigerated for up to a week, or frozen for up to 3 months.
Roasting the Squash Whole: Instead of cutting the squash in half, you can also roast it whole. Roast until a fork can easily pierce through the outer peel and all the way to the interior of the squash, about an hour. Slice in half and carefully remove the seeds and stringy flesh, then scrape the flesh as directed above.