Healthy Ingredient of the Week – Spaghetti Squash

By Guest Blogger Becka Levin, GIC

This week we will have some fun eating spaghetti squash. Now just from the name, you may be thinking, how can a food be a vegetable and made from a grain at the same time? Well, the sneaky spaghetti squash is really not a grain at all – it’s actually a cousin of the winter squash but most often prepared so that it looks like spaghetti. Best of all, it even tastes like spaghetti, making it a great, healthy substitute in your favorite pasta dish.

Why is spaghetti squash so healthy anyway?

Just like regular squash (and last week’s healthy ingredient, avocado), spaghetti squash contains fiber. Fiber helps you feel fuller longer, can aid in regularity, and help prevent certain cancers, especially those of the intestinal tract. Spaghetti squash is chock full of the antioxidants vitamin A, which helps maintain healthy eyesight, and C, which aids the immune system. This delicious vegetable contains no saturated fat and has a very low calorie count when compared to regular spaghetti.

Luckily, spaghetti squash is incredibly easy to prepare. You can simply place your spaghetti squash on a baking tray, whole or cut in half (it will cook faster if cut in half, although it is not very easy to cut raw).  Set your oven to 350⁰, and cook until you can easily put a fork into it. If your squash is already cut in half, wait for it cool down and use a fork to scrape out the insides, which you can serve however you would like.

Since the act of cooking a spaghetti squash does take some time, it may be easier to cook some when you have time and store it in your fridge so you can whip up a recipe on a busy weeknight.

Recipes

(Feel free to make substitutions to your liking-these don’t have to be set in stone!)

Simple “Spaghetti” and Veggies

Ingredients

1 spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1½ cups chopped tomatoes

¾ cup crumbled feta cheese

3 tablespoons sliced black olives

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.

2. Place spaghetti squash cut sides down on the prepared baking sheet, and bake 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a sharp knife can be inserted with only a little resistance. Remove squash from oven, and set aside to cool enough to be easily handled.

3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion in oil until tender. Add garlic and continue sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, and cook only until tomatoes are warm.

4. Use a large spoon to scoop the stringy pulp from the squash, and place in a medium bowl. Toss with the sautéed vegetables, feta cheese, olives, and basil. Serve warm.

 

Italian Sausage and Peppers with “Spaghetti”

Ingredients

1 package sweet Italian sausage, casings removed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1½ cups sliced fresh fennel

½ cup diced green onion

½ cup diced sweet red pepper

½ cup diced green pepper

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 cup diced fresh tomatoes

6 tablespoons cooking sherry, cognac, or apple juice – whatever is on hand

Salt and pepper to taste

3 cups cooked spaghetti squash

Instructions

1. In a large skillet, cook and crumble sausage until no longer pink; drain and set aside.

2. In the same skillet, saute the fennel, green onion, red and green peppers and garlic until tender. Add the tomatoes, sausage and 3 tablespoons sherry; cook and stir until heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, stir in remaining sherry.

4. Serve hot over spaghetti squash.

 

Spaghetti Squash with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce

Ingredients

cooking spray

1 spaghetti squash, halved and seeded

½ stick of butter

1 shallot, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ (14.5 ounce) can pumpkin puree

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon white truffle oil

Instructions

1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. Place the squash halves cut-side down onto the prepared baking sheet.

3. Bake in the preheated oven until the squash skin is easily pierced with a fork, 40 to 45 minutes.

4. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Once the squash is cool enough to handle, shred squash flesh from rind using a fork; set aside in a large bowl.

5. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat; cook and stir the shallot and garlic in the hot butter until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir the pumpkin puree, Greek yogurt, and Parmesan cheese with the shallot and garlic until well combined; cook until hot. Remove from heat and scrape the sauce into the bowl with the squash. Drizzle with the truffle oil; season with salt and pepper.

YOUR TURN TO GET CREATIVE!

What’s your favorite way to typically enjoy spaghetti? With marinara sauce and meatballs? With pesto and sautéed vegetables? In shrimp scampi? Try preparing your favorite pasta dish and simply substitute cooked spaghetti squash instead of spaghetti. It’s an easy way to “healthify” something you already like – your body and your taste buds will thank you.

 

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