Spaghetti squash is in the category of foods you thought were extraterrestrial and forbidden as a child along with things like guacamole and chunky chili. The inside of a spaghetti squash becomes stringy after it's cooked-- that is pretty weird. It isn't until adulthood when you realize that all of these foods are actually amazing and you've been missing out this whole time.
One of the overwhelming hurdles to going gluten free is the dooming thought of never enjoying pasta again. Once you go GF, all of a sudden, you long for boxed macaroni and cheese and dream of piles of spaghetti and meatballs. Although they make gluten free pastas made of corn and rice combinations, they're still not great for you. Using spaghetti squash as a pasta substitute offers a Paleo option, avoiding grains altogether. That's a win!
Spaghetti squash contains many nutrients that aren’t found in ordinary pasta. You'll find things like omega-3, omega-6, vitamins A and C, potassium, and plenty of fiber to keep you full. Plus replacing traditional pasta with spaghetti squash keeps your carbs way down.
To prepare a spaghetti squash, you can simply bake it in the oven. Just split it in half, spoon out the seeds from the inside, and lay on a baking sheet face down. The tricky thing about cutting the spaghetti squash raw is that the outer layer is super hard. I mean, they are really hard to cut. I've had a painful finger injury from trying to doing this so be careful. Before laying the squash down on the pan, you can rub olive oil and seasoning on the insides, but let's get real. I just spray the pan with nonstick spray. Bake the squash at 375 degrees for 40-ish minutes. When it's done, you should be able to fork at the inside, and it'll string out like spaghetti.
Another convenient way to cook the spaghetti squash is using the crock pot (crock pots are my love language). You can literally put the whole squash in the crockpot without cutting it (and your fingers). Just make some slits around the squash for it to breathe and put the cover on the crockpot. After it cooks, the squash is nice and tender for you to cut and spoon out the guts. Side note: it tends to get more mushy the longer you cook it. I used to cook on low for 8 hours, during a typical work day, but it was too mushy for me by the end. I prefer cutting that time in half and doing 4 hours on high. This way, you can walk away and get other stuff done and still get a distinguished noodle texture.
One of our favorite spaghetti squash recipes is the "Almost 5 Ingredient Pizza Spaghetti Pie" from paleomg.com. This recipe makes me feel like I'm eating my mom's glutenous lasagna from my childhood except it's good for me. If you're venturing into Paleo for the first time or just need some inspiration, check out Juli's stuff on paleomg.com. Her blog is full of recipes and ideas for a Paleo lifestyle!
In our household, we typically modify the recipe by adding green peppers and spinach to bulk things up. And instead of pizza sauce, we use our spaghetti sauce of choice (on left). We like to load the top with grated parmesan before baking to give it a little crust. This recipe can feel labor intensive with a lot of steps, so on busy days we just do the sauce and "pasta" separate so it's like spaghetti instead of a pasta bake.
If you haven't ventured to preparing a spaghetti squash before, this is your time! There are some helpful tips here to get you started. You'll find that spaghetti squash can be prepared several different ways as a healthy and delicious alternative to pasta. You might just fall in love with it like we did!