Many varieties of winter squash are interchangeable. If you can’t find kabocha at the market, most times butternut will probably be fine. But spaghetti squash…well, it’s not like other squash. If cooked correctly, the flesh flakes off into long strands (hence the name).
Tonight, we're doing more than just tossing it with pasta sauce.
To figure out how to cook spaghetti squash in the quickest, easiest, and best-tasting way possible, former Epi food editor Anna Stockwell tried out a few of the most common techniques touted on yon internet: whole roasted spaghetti squash; halved and roasted, cut side up; halved and roasted, cut side down; halved and steam-roasted with a bit of water; sliced into rounds and roasted; and zapped in the microwave. After many, many squash were put to the test, she came to a few conclusions. Here they are:
How to Cut Spaghetti Squash
“Spaghetti squash can be very hard,” Anna says, “and slicing into one can be a little bit scary.” To minimize risk to your fingers, Anna suggests poking the oblong squash all over with a paring knife and cooking it briefly in the microwave. Just 5 minutes will help make the tough-skinned beast soften up. (If you don’t have a microwave, you can also accomplish this by pricking it a bit and roasting whole at 375°F for 15 to 20 minutes.)
From there, slice the squash in half the long way—Anna tried slicing into rings, which is frequently offered as a way to make longer strands, but found that process “too fussy and complicated” and says she “didn’t notice much difference” in the results between it and the simpler halved version.
How to Cook Spaghetti Squash
Once the squash is partially cooked and halved, as indicated above, line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. We don’t always recommend using parchment for roasting vegetables, but it’s the best move here because we won’t be using any oil to bake the squash (not using oil allows more moisture to be driven off during cooking). Plus, in the goal of getting spaghetti squash to behave like noodles, you aren’t looking to get much browning on its surface (a little bit of browning is fine).
Scoop the seeds from the center of each half. (Discard the seeds or find another use for them.) Sprinkle about ¼ teaspoon salt across the cut surface of each half (if you have a very large squash, you might want a little more; for a small squash, a little less).
Place each half cut side down on the parchment and slide into an oven set to 375°F. Roast for 40 to 50 minutes until the interior is fork-tender. Again, size will affect how long it takes to cook spaghetti squash to the point of tenderness. (A note on doneness: Anna prefers spaghetti squash with “a slight al dente bite, which makes substituting it in place of pasta so much more believable.” If you’d like your squash to be a little more tender, roast spaghetti squash in the oven a bit longer.)
How to Cook Spaghetti Squash Faster
In her tests, Anna found that using the microwave was by far the fastest way to cook spaghetti squash. After pre-microwaving the squash whole, then cutting it in half, she found that microwaving each half, cut side down, for about 10 minutes produced good results. Unless you’re working with a small squash or have a large microwave, though, you’ll need to cook each half separately, she says, which means you’re looking at a total of 20 minutes. Note that we much preferred the texture and more concentrated flavor of the roasted version, but if you’re pressed for time, this is a worthwhile option to consider.
How Not to Bake Spaghetti Squash
In her experiments, Anna found that roasting a whole squash to the point it had an al dente texture took far too long. Roasting with the cut sides facing up resulted in squash she found too dry, and roasting it in a shallow bed of water produced strands that were too wet. If you’re wondering how to bake spaghetti squash, refer to the methods above.
How to Turn Spaghetti Squash Into “Noodles”
Once your spaghetti squash is cooked and cool enough to handle, turn one half so that a long side is facing you. Use a fork to gently pull the strands away from the peel. Keep scraping, turning as needed and fluffing the “noodles” until all the strands are free.Anna Stockwell
Originally Appeared on Epicurious