Digging into a tasty spaghetti squash-based meal is like taking a bite of history.
According to the Library of Congress, squashes are one of the oldest known crops, dating back some 10,000 years in places like Mexico. And really, they've never wavered in popularity since. Beyond being a darn good addition to any meal, this delicious gourd also comes with some major nutritional benefits. Here's what you need to know about spaghetti squash and how to start incorporating it into your daily meals.
History of Spaghetti Squash
"Since squashes are gourds, they most likely served as containers or utensils because of their hard shells," the Library of Congress explains. "The seeds and flesh later became an important part of the pre-Columbian Indian diet in both South and North America. De Soto, Coronado, and Cartier all saw 'melons' (probably squash) in the Americas."
As for the name, the Library of Congress notes that the word "squash" comes from the "Narragansett Native American word 'askutasquash', which means 'eaten raw or uncooked.'" Though spaghetti squash is native to both Mexico and Central America, it is now grown all over the world. It is classified as a winter squash, just like other squash varieties including pumpkin, butternut, acorn, and delicata.
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Spaghetti Squash Nutritional Benefits
Like many other squash varieties, spaghetti squash has numerous nutritional benefits. In addition to being packed with nutrients, the hearty veggie is also low in calories and full of satiating fiber. Keep reading to learn more about the ways in which spaghetti squash can improve your overall health.
It's packed with vitamins
Kimberly Asman, the dietitian for Weis Markets, explains that spaghetti squash is a great vegetable to include in your diet if it's something you particularly enjoy. Why? It's loaded with vitamins C and K. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, which means it can boost your immune system and protect your memory as you age, among other things, while vitamin K helps blood clot properly and is essential in healing wounds.
It's a good source of fiber
Spaghetti squash is also an excellent source of fiber, with one cup clocking in at 2.2 grams, or 9 percent of a person's daily fiber needs. This helps to promote good digestive health and keep things moving, if you catch our drift.
"Since squash is packed with nutrition, it's never a bad idea to add it to your diet, and there are benefits to eating it daily," Josh Schlottman, a certified personal trainer and nutritionist, says. "People should add more squash to their daily diet by including it in salads, soups, or roasted with other vegetables."
It can improve blood pressure
Schlottman adds: "Spaghetti squash is the perfect vegetable for those who are looking to eat healthier. It is low in calories, fat, and cholesterol, and has a number of health benefits too."
According to Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, winter squash (like spaghetti squash) is rich in potassium, which can help to counteract the deleterious effects of sodium on blood pressure. Additionally, according to a study that appeared in the journal Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, decreased cholesterol was observed when giving winter squash polysaccharides (a type of carbohydrates) to healthy and diabetic mice.
When to Buy Spaghetti Squash and How to Store It
Though spaghetti squash can be found year-round, it may be best in the fall and winter, when it is in season. Once cut, spaghetti squash should be kept in the refrigerator and should be used within a few days.
You can also freeze cooked spaghetti squash. To do this, let the cooked squash cool completely and transfer it to freezer-safe plastic bags or food storage containers. To avoid freezer burn, make sure to squeeze as much air as possible out of the bags. The frozen spaghetti squash will last in the freezer for approximately seven months.
How to Cook Spaghetti Squash
To prepare spaghetti squash, Asman suggests cutting the squash in half lengthwise and removing the seeds. Drizzle the insides with olive oil, and place the squash cut-side down on a baking sheet. Use a fork to poke a few holes in the top, and roast it for about 30 to 40 minutes at 400 degrees, until it's lightly browned. Once it's cooled, use a fork to scrape the strands out of the inside of the squash.
You can also enjoy spaghetti squash simply by popping it into the microwave. To cook spaghetti squash in the microwave, once again cut it in half lengthwise and take out the seeds. Next, place the squash cut-side down in a 9 x13-inch glass baking dish and pierce the skin. Add one cup of water to the baking dish about halfway through. Adding the water will help to steam the squash and soften it so you can easily pull out the "spaghetti strings." Microwave on high for 15 minutes. Just be careful removing it from the microwave, as it will be very hot.
Spaghetti Squash Recipes
"Once cooked, spaghetti squash shreds into spaghetti-like pieces," Asman explains. "It can be enjoyed on its own, flavored with olive oil and your favorite seasonings, or topped with pasta sauce just like regular spaghetti."
Truly, spaghetti squash is a blank slate, ready for you to top it with whatever flavors you're feeling to make it your own. Scroll down for some spaghetti squash recipe ideas!
Spaghetti Squash Ragù
This hearty, slow-cooker ragù is made with familiar ingredients such as ground beef, crushed tomatoes, and oregano, but instead of topping noodles, this sauce adds some flavor to spaghetti squash. The best part? You can cook the spaghetti squash and the ragù in the slow cooker at the same time, which translates to less prep work for you and an easy cleanup.
Spaghetti Squash Parmesan
This vegetarian-friendly dish treats spaghetti squash just like, well, spaghetti. The veggie noodles are topped with jarred marinara sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, and grated Parmesan cheese, as well as crispy panko breadcrumbs. And if you hate doing dishes, you'll be happy to know that you can use the hollowed out squash as a bowl for this comforting meal.
Spaghetti Squash Casserole With Ricotta and Spinach
This healthy-ish casserole uses spaghetti squash as a base. The gourd is paired with ricotta, spinach, and mozzarella, and the result is a veggie-filled take on lasagna.
Instant Pot Spaghetti Squash
If you're looking for a set-it-and-forget-it kind of meal, prepare your spaghetti squash in an Instant Pot. The hands-off cooking method takes about 20 minutes, and leaves you with a perfectly cooked gourd that's ready to be eaten. Top it with your favorite sauce, such as a homemade pesto, or, for an even easier meal, some of Trader Joe's new Truffle Picante Spicy Pasta Sauce.