Hello there! Instead of reviewing recipes/products, this Sunday I thought I’d look at a ‘food trend’. This food trend is just a small part of a much larger world (lifestyle? fad?) of low-carb eating. I’m not here to promote or judge low-carb eating. That being said, as half my family is Italian, I’m not about to start going around insulting pasta.
So, without further ado…
The Trend: Replacing Spaghetti with Spaghetti Squash
This trend started a few years ago, but has become more popular recently with the growth of ‘paleo’ diets. Spaghetti squash is only one of the vegetable substitutes for pasta out there – others include zucchini, sweet potato, carrots and butternut squash. From what I can gather, spaghetti squash has long been the ‘fake pasta queen’, although zucchini is definitely in with a chance of taking the title.
What is a spaghetti squash?
It’s a vegetable with insides that, when cooked, looks like spaghetti. Not surprisingly, it’s a member of the winter squash family (i.e. it’s related to butternut squashes and pumpkins). Spaghetti squash is also known as ‘vegetable spaghetti’ and ‘noodle squash’, among other names.
When raw, this vegetable looks a bit like a butternut squash (also called ‘butternut pumpkin’). It’s hard, about the size of a melon, and difficult to cut. When you finally manage to cut through it, you find the middle contains the seeds and stringy bits you’d expect to find in a pumpkin.
Once cooked it’s a whole different story. Straight out of the oven, it looks pretty much like a squash, right?
But when you start scraping out the flesh with a fork… magic!
Abracadabra! You’re left with something that looks an awful lot like spaghetti.
Does it Taste Like Spaghetti?
Simply put, no.
You know when you roast a ‘bad’ pumpkin or butternut squash, and it’s all stringy inside? Well a spaghetti squash tastes a lot like a stringy pumpkin. Except it’s completely bland. Blander than the inside of a zucchini.
When smothered in a flavorsome pasta sauce, it tastes… okay. Not bad, considering you can eat a large bowlful of the stuff for very few calories. But spaghetti squash isn’t fooling anyone: It’s no pasta.
Even when baked for a very long time and then cooked on the stove with sauce, the strands of spaghetti squash have a slightly unusual, almost crunchy texture. It’s nothing like the al dente perfection of good-quality pasta.
But hey, it’s a vegetable. I will give spaghetti squash points on one thing: it’s pretty good at holding pasta sauce. Just make sure your pasta sauce is quite thick, because thinner sauces have a tendency to slowly seep out of the spaghetti squash. And there’s no fun in eating a bowl of vegetables swimming in water.
So, in summary, spaghetti squash is good if:
- You’re looking for something to go with a hearty pasta sauce
- You’re in the hunt for a bargain when it comes to calories
Whereas spaghetti squash is not-so-good if:
- You like pasta. Not because of it’s ability to pair with sauce, but because of the texture/taste of the pasta itself
Despite the fact that it’s clearly not pasta, I actually don’t mind spaghetti squash – as long as it’s with plenty of sauce (I particularly like it with a meatless ‘bolognese’ made using eggplant, mushrooms and lentils/beans). Also, I can only enjoy it if I’m thinking ‘This is a bowl of spaghetti squash’ and not ‘This is a bowl of spaghetti’.
How Do You Cook Spaghetti Squash?
Generally speaking, it’s baked until tender. However, since a raw spaghetti squash is hard to cut and baking it whole takes forever, this is how I usually cook it:
- Microwave it whole for 5 minutes
- Cut in half (carefully!), and then use a spoon to scrape out the seeds
- Bake at 375°F (190°C) for 35 – 40 minutes, or until tender when prodded with a fork
There’s a good guide to cooking spaghetti squash over at The Kitchn.
Question of the Day
What do you think of vegetable ‘pasta’? Is it a good idea, or low carb-ery gone too far (or neither)?