Thatsa Notsa Pasta

[Previous Suburban Farmgirl, October 2009 – October 2010]

I’ll be up front: I’m no stealthy nutrient-pusher, a la Jessica Seinfeld. You remember Jerry’s wife, and her book about getting vegetables into your kids by lacing their mac ‘n cheese with cauliflower puree and their peanut butter cookies with carrot mash? Partly my objection to this way of cooking is my own sheer laziness: I hate fiddling with Cuisinarty appliances, even plain old blenders. And partly it’s principle: I think good food should speak for itself without concealment.

(I mean, I love peanut butter cookies and I adore carrots. But together? They’re no heavenly Reese’s-style collision waiting to happen! Chocolate chips in the batter, yes. Carrots? Yikes!)

That said, I have one sneaky dish that I make every fall just to see if anyone notices. Well, and because I adore it.

It starts with this humble, homely ingredient:

Spaghetti squash.

Nothing finer on a fall day than spaghetti squash transformed into its namesake in time for dinner. Easy and delicious — and you can safely eat a whole lot more of it than a big plate of pasta. (Thus leaving room for a dessert of p.b. cookies, the real kind!)

The first time I invented my version of spaghetti-squash-spaghetti, my daughters were well into their second helpings before someone spied an errand seed.

Child on verge of freakout: “Euuwww! What’s this?”

Me: “Oh just a seed.”

Child (suspicion mounting): “From what?”

Me (realizing I’m busted and stalling for time): “Oh, well, um…are you sure it’s not an onion?”

Child: “It isn’t shaped like an onion. And it doesn’t have those funny lines on it.” (Notice she doesn’t say, “It doesn’t taste like an onion,” because she would never dare taste anything suspected of being onion any sooner than she’d taste anything suspected of being a seed in her spaghetti.)

Me: “Maybe it’s a mushroom.”

Child (indignant): “Mushrooms don’t have seeds!”

Time to confess. (Although this little exchange dragged out the meal so that a few more bites were finished before the truth would out.)

Youngest daughter – after seconds, mind you – promptly gagged at the very idea of squash masquerading as pasta and swore she’d never ever in a hundred billion centuries eat it again. Middle daughter, who’d quizzed me, rested her case and immediately declared herself full and finished, pleasemayIbeexcused. Oldest daughter shrugged and kept rolling forkfuls with me.

Up to you whether you’re frank or coy when you whip up this dish. Just try it! Pick a cold day when you’re short on time. Yum!

The recipe:

Start by roasting a nice, yellow (not green-yellow) squash. I wish I could tell you an exact time or temperature, but alas I’m Paula Spencer and not Paula Deen. I just stick the squash, whole, but with a couple of lances of a sharp knife for steam to escape, into the oven in a baking dish or a cast iron skillet. Roast at about 400 degrees for about 40-45 minutes, until it’s soft and maybe starting to brown a little bit. Then I take it out and let it cool. (Some people cut it in half before roasting, but it’s such a tough thing to cut, this is too much effort for yours truly the Suburban Farmgirl Chef. Who Never Met a Kitchen Shortcut She Didn’t Like.)

Sometimes, in fact, I cook it first thing in the morning, before I forget. Then I let it cool all day. At dinnertime, I get started again.

In a little olive oil, sauté a chopped onion, some cut-up white mushrooms, and a couple of diced celery ribs. (Or whatever else you like to add to your spaghetti sauce: I can’t abide garlic, for example, so I leave it out, realizing this makes me an oddball in the world of Italian cuisine. But fresh basil or oregano have possibilities. Yellow squash? Zucchini? Carrot or cauliflower, even – just don’t mash it please, Jessica.)

To the sautéed veggies, I add a jar of premade spaghetti sauce. Obviously the true chefs and tomato-growers among us will instead keep on making homemade sauce, at this point. (Anybody want to tell me how???) I do hunt high and low – and pay too much extra – for a jar that contains no sugar or multisyllabic mystery ingredients. This is harder than you’d think! And why does it cost more to buy something with fewer ingredients?!

Now the fun part. While the sauce heats up, I cut open the roasted, cooled spaghetti squash (lengthwise, in half). First scoop out the seeds and goopy bits at the very center. Don’t get outed later by an errant seed! Then you get to start combing.

Using a fork , comb along the sides to pull all the strands out and apart. The more you pull, the more “spaghetti” piles out! It never fails to astound me how many strands were compacted inside that smallish orb — at least four generous servings-ful.

Heat up the strands in the microwave for 30 seconds or so (if they’re not still warm) and place in your serving dish. Now add the sauce. Top with grated Parmesan cheese, bring to the table, and say, “Schiacciare!”

(That’s squash in Italian!)

  1. Debbie says:

    You "Schiacciare!" looks mighty tasty! I’ve never roasted one but I think I’ll give it a try! Love that you can start it in the am and come back to it in the evening…Now, what to do with those home schooled children of mine while I cook the squash behind their backs? Maybe I’ll tell them it’s our Science experiment for the day and we can eat it for dinner too! I love spaghetti squash cooked in the microwave, seasoned with butter, salt and pepper" too… yummy!
    Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  2. SuburbanFarmgirl says:

    p.s. When reheating lunch leftovers (excellent!), I included chopped cherry tomatoes. Next time, think I’ll include them in the mushrooms-onion-celery saute. Yum!

  3. Suzanne says:

    I’m going to try this on my boyfriend…..he claims he doesn’t like most vegetables ~ lets see if I can trick him into eating squash!

  4. Rebecca says:

    That looks fantastic! I will definitely be trying this. Great story, too. Love your sense of humor! 😀

  5. Jo says:

    I am a Weight Watchers member. One of my leaders used half of her spaghetti squash for "spaghetti" and the other half for dessert. She mixed crushed pineapple, some cinnamon, and the squash together (you could add some sweetener of your choice if you’d like). A small salad on the side and you have a great lunch or dinner.

  6. SuburbanFarmgirl says:

    Dessert, wow…no telling what the possibilities are!

  7. KellyJo says:

    I remember this from my days as a newlywed (17 years ago)! It was the surprise recipe going around in our newlywed group. Definately not pasta, but very tasty; with a nutty kind of crunch. Thankfully, I don’t need to hide veggies as my son loves them. Now, potty training, that’s another matter…

  8. Fantastic! I have always sawed the squash in need some muscle. Plus it is hard to scrape out the seeds.

    I love shortcuts :)…and will try your suggestion. Grazie!

  9. Paula, You are a rare talent indeed! You can do anything.
    You should have your own talk show. Your flow of writing is so comfortable and fresh. Thanks for your interpretations
    on life and now cooking!

  10. Peggy says:

    I have always wanted to try this but have always been alittle afraid! Your recipe and pictures have made it seem so much less intimidating…so tomorrows grocery shopping will include a great big yellow spagetti squash! I’ll let you know how it turns out.

  11. SuburbanFarmgirl says:

    Peggy–pls do!

  12. Tina F says:

    Love your daughter’s response. So cute! I do spaghettie squash with a sweet topping of butter and brownsugar. I haven’t been brave enough to try tomato sauce, but maybe I will. 🙂

  13. Nancylaurel says:

    I love to make spaghetti squash with tomato sauce. Delicious that way. Also with butter and brown sugar. Love your daughter’s response.

  14. justlou says:

    Say there Paula, isn’t life great! we can try all kinds of new inventive things – even eat some of them! this is a dish I’ve liked a long time … now to try the desert option. Kids are so interesting:)
    "keep on goin’" fm Lou

  15. Bonnie says:

    you can boil a spaghetti squash also. Just be sure to knife a hole in it along the way to keep it from exploding. It is a little more energy efficient to not start up the oven for just one thing.

  16. Kathryn says:

    Have made this for awhile, but use the squash as a bowl. I serve the sauce with either chunks of grilled chichen or meatballs in it right in 1/2 of the squash. Just cut a little slice off the bottom of each half so your bowl doesn’t wobble. All you have to do it pull off a bit of the squash to make the noodles as you eat the sauce. With a salad and garlic bread, what more does one need? Could probably cut it in fourths to double the amount of servings.

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