Recipes using squash seem like they are pretty big in the blog world. Why wouldn’t they be? Squash is low in calories, high in fiber and is very versatile in that it can be made sweet or savory and cooked many, many different ways.
I had heard of people using spaghetti squash in place of actual spaghetti (or whatever pasta), and I have to admit I was a bit skeptical. I am not a huge fan of using replacements to try and taste like something else. For example, if I make tofu noodles with light cheese and the recipe says it is a great substitute for fettucini alfredo, I will most likely be really disappointed since let’s face it, it isn’t going to taste like a creamy fettucini alfredo. Same goes for mashed cauliflower as potatoes or rice, etc. While these things are good, I would prefer to just think of them as what they are, instead of trying to think of it as something else. Keeping that in mind, I set out to make spaghetti squash. I figured I would eat it just as I would normal pasta (aka with some sort of sauce and cheese) but I would remember that it was squash I was making, not pasta, just so I wouldn’t be too disappointed if it ended up tasting like a diet food or something.
The first time I made it, all I did was dump some sauce on top and heat it up, then added parmesan cheese. Not very fancy and not surprisingly, it wasn’t that good. While it wasn’t bad per se, it tasted like squash with random spaghetti sauce on it (obviously) and it just seemed like a weird way to eat squash. But, seeing as how I had a huge other half of the squash left, I decided to give it another shot. I knew I could try and improve this, and also knew there were a few things I would do differently. The main problem is that I just combined the squash with the sauce and microwaved. The flavors didn’t really mix and it just didn’t work. So, I figured I should make a sauce on the stove-top and then I could add the squash at the end and toss it altogether. Second, at first I assumed that red sauce (tomato sauce) would work best with the squash, but now that I have tried a few things, I actually think that more of an oil or butterish sauce would work best in making the squash more pasta like.
I looked around for what I had on hand, and decided to make an olive oil garlic sauce with diced tomatoes; capers and olives and then I would add feta at the end. So, here it is:
‘Spaghetti’ (squash) with an olive oil, garlic, tomato sauce
This recipe serves 2. If you want to use the whole squash to serve 4, just double the ingredients.
½ of a spaghetti squash
1 T olive oil
2 T garlic
1 t oregano
1-2 t basil
1 cup tofu, diced
Dash of rosemary
2 T capers
1 handful of greek olives
2 or so ounces of feta
Salt and pepper to taste.
First you will need to cook the spaghetti squash. You can do this in the microwave, in a slow cooker or in the oven. I have also read that you can boil the whole squash but I haven’t tried that way. All ways are pretty straightforward. Just pierce the skin a few times with a fork, then bake away for about an hour or microwave for 6-8 minutes. Once the fork easily goes into the skin, it is done. You don’t want to overcook if you can help it because then the ‘pasta’ will taste overcooked. Once you take it out of the oven/microwave, you can either let it cool completely (if you aren’t eating right then) or just wear an oven mitt or something before cutting squash in half and scooping the seeds out of the center. Once you have done this, you will want to take a fork and just scrape against the inside. You will see that the squash will pull away in strands, making it look a lot like spaghetti.
I cooked the squash in advance, but if you want to cook the squash the same day you make it, you could make the sauce while it is cooking. To make the sauce, I heated a saute pan with olive oil and added about a tablespoon of garlic. Once this was hot, I added in the diced tomato. I used canned tomatoes (well drained), since tomatoes aren’t in season and are priceyy right now. But I do think it would work just as well if not better with fresh tomatoes.
I also added tofu for some protein. You could skip this step if you don’t like tofu or use chicken. After the tomato mixture was hot and bubbling, I added the capers, oregano, basil, a dash of rosemary, salt and basil. I used all dried herbs, but it would probably be 100 times better with fresh. Also, I just put fairly conservative amounts for the herbs, but feel free to add as much as you want. They will add lots of flavor and you can’t really use too much. If you are using fresh though, you might want to wait to add until closer to the end. I turned the heat down to low once all the ingredients were in the pan and let it cook until it started to simmer. Then I added in the squash (which was preheated in the microwave) and stirred for about 2 minutes. Finally, I turned off the heat and added the crumbled feta and olives.
Verdict: This sauce and preparation method made a WORLD of difference. The squash still didn’t taste exactly like pasta but it tasted a lot closer than my first attempt. Plus, pasta or not, it was really good! And, my favorite part is that you can eat a LOT of it for very few calories. Winner winner chicken dinner.
Have you guys ever tried spaghetti squash as a replacement for pasta? Or any other replacements like this? What do you think about them in general? I think this was the closest I have come to a legit food substitute so far.