Averaging from four to eight pounds, the cylinder-shaped spaghetti squash is generally available year-round with a peak season from early fall through winter. While a true spaghetti squash is pale ivory to pale yellow in color, in the early 1990s, an orange spaghetti squash known as "Orangetti" was developed and this is what is frequently found in today's supermarkets. Higher in beta carotene, the orange variety is also a bit sweeter than its paler counterpart, although both have a mild flavor that is easily enhanced by the food served with or on it. A dieter's dream, a four-ounce serving of spaghetti squash has only 37 calories.
Buying & storing
When buying spaghetti squash, look for hard fruit that is heavy for its size, about eight to nine inches in length and four to five inches in diameter and with a pale even color. Avoid any squash with soft spots and green color is a sign of immaturity. The average four-pound spaghetti squash will yield about five cups.
Spaghetti squash can be stored at room temperature for about a month. After cutting, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate up to two days. Spaghetti squash also freezes well. Pack cooked squash into freezer bags, seal, label and freeze. Partially thaw before re-using, then steam until tender but still firm, about five minutes.
How to cook spaghetti squash
- Bake it — Pierce the whole shell several times with a large fork or skewer and place in baking dish. Cook squash in preheated 375 degree F oven approximately 1 hour or until flesh is tender.
- Boil it — Heat a pot of water large enough to hold the whole squash. When the water is boiling, drop in the squash and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on its size. When a fork goes easily into the flesh, the squash is done.
- Microwave it — Cut squash in half lengthwise; remove seeds. Place squash cut sides up in a microwave dish with 1/4 cup water. Cover with plastic wrap and cook on high for 10 to 12 minutes, depending on size of squash. Add more cooking time if necessary. Let stand covered, for 5 minutes. With fork, "comb" out the strands.
- Slow cooker or Crock-Pot — Choose a smaller spaghetti squash (unless you have an extra-large slow cooker) so that it will fit. Add 2 cups of water to slow cooker. Pierce the whole shell several times with a large fork or skewer, add to Crock-Pot, cover and cook on low for 8 to 9 hours.
Once the squash is cooked, let it cool for 10 to 20 minutes so it will be easier to handle, before cutting in half (if it wasn't already) and removing the seeds. Pull a fork lengthwise through the flesh to separate it into long strands. (See photos.) You can do these steps ahead of time, then prepare spaghetti squash recipes whenever the mood strikes.