Spaghetti squash, also known as vegetable spaghetti, is a winter squash perfect for spring. When cooked, it separates into long pasta-like strands and the flesh is mildly sweet to nutty in flavor, finely grained in texture. All winter squash share a few common characteristics: The outer rinds are hard and difficult to pierce, enabling them to have long storage periods, from one week and six months.
Although spaghetti squash tends to fly a bit under the radar when it comes to talk of “super” vegetables, it has a pretty stocked nutrient stat sheet. It’s rich in the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which help maintain healthy cells in the eyes, and beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin, precursors to Vitamin A. Vitamin A fulfills many important roles in the body, and specifically helps support the innate immune system, the immune system’s first line of defense. Beta-cryptoxanthin may also lower risk of developing lung cancer.
Other key nutrients found in spaghetti squash include: Vitamin B6, dietary fiber, folate, magnesium, copper, and potassium. Potassium plays an important role in blood pressure as it can help excrete sodium (when sodium levels go up, the body retains more water to dilute the sodium, ultimately leading to greater blood volume and increased pressure on the blood vessels).
Spaghetti squash is a great choice for incorporating a meatless meal that is both light and satisfying into your weekly menu. Although spaghetti squash are at their peak season from October to November, you can still find them in most grocery stores into early spring. Choose a squash that is firm, heavy for its size and has a dull, not glossy, rind. Soft rinds may indicate that the squash is watery and lacking in flavor.
Some tasty yet simple ways to prepare spaghetti squash include:
- Top with pasta sauce and Mediterranean herbs
- Prepare with eggs, onions and spinach for a savory breakfast
- Combine with tomatoes, avocado, cumin and cilantro
- Toss with sesame seed oil, water chestnuts, carrots and bok choy
You can also try this simple recipe for a more Mediterranean style squash dish.
Mediterranean Spaghetti Squash
Although it has a mild nutty flavor on its own, when you combine spaghetti squash with sautéed onions, olives, feta, and juicy tomatoes, it absorbs those flavors, resulting in a Mediterranean dish everyone will enjoy. This recipe makes a hearty, lunch or dinner. As written, this recipe is vegetarian and can be made vegan by removing the feta cheese. If you prefer, you can also pair this dish with fish or chicken.
1 3-4 pound spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups halved grape tomatoes
3/4 cup crumbled organic feta cheese
1/2 cup sliced organic black olives
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
- Place spaghetti squash on the baking sheet, cut sides down. Bake until you can poke a sharp knife into the squash with little resistance, about 35-45 minutes. Remove squash from oven; set aside to cool.
- Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion in oil until tender. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and cook briefly, about 1 minute. You only want to warm the tomatoes.
- Use a large fork to shred the “spaghetti” from the squash and place the strands in a large bowl. Toss with the sautéed vegetables, feta cheese, olives, and basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.