I think baked spaghetti squash is great. I like its mild taste. It’s not as squashy as some of the other squashes. And I find it tastes better than pasta (although I do prefer some sauces with pasta). But the thing I like best is that, for me, it feels much lighter than pasta, so that I just feel better after eating spaghetti squash.
So how do you do it? Baking spaghetti squash is mostly pretty easy. We’ll go over a few ways to do it. First, we’ll talk about preparing the squash for baking. Then we’ll go over how to bake it. And finally, we’ll talk about how to get the very cool spaghetti strands.
Here we go!
Preparing The Squash
Before baking spaghetti squash, you have to prepare it. That means washing it and, if you like, cutting it up.
Just to be on the safe side, you can wash your spaghetti squash. The inside of the squash is nice and clean, of course, but there might be dirt and bacteria on the skin, and they could sneak on in once you start cutting up the squash.
To wash it, just run it under lukewarm water and rub it, or brush it with a vegetable brush. Be sure to dry it afterward, so that it’s not slippery, especially if you’re going to be cutting it. And that’s it!
Cutting – Do You Have To?
This is the big question: before baking spaghetti squash, do you need to cut it? In half? In quarters? Not at all? If you’ve ever cut a spaghetti squash before, you’ll know why this question is such a big deal. Cutting a raw spaghetti squash is not easy at all. It’s a really hard vegetable, and getting the knife to cut all the way through is really tough. Especially if you have about the same strength as a newborn kitten, like me.
So, do you need to cut it, or not? In fact, you can cut it or leave it whole. But each method has its advantages and disadvantages.
- Cutting a raw spaghetti squash is pretty annoying and hard to do. If you don’t have a good, big, sharp knife, or are kind of butter-fingered, you might want to wait till the squash is cooked before cutting it. It’ll help avoid nasty accidents.
- Once you’ve cut the squash, you’ll need to remove the seeds. Now, it’s harder to get them out when the squash is raw. If it’s cooked, you can just easily scoop the seeds out. But, raw squash is so hard that you can scrape the insides pretty vigorously to get the seeds out without wasting any of the good vegetable, so it’s really not that bad.
- You’re going to have to cut the squash at some point. If you don’t do it before, you’ll have to do it once the squash is cooked. It’ll be a lot easier to cut, but it’ll also be a lot hotter, so you have to be careful.
- If you cut the squash, it’ll cook faster. The baking time goes from about an hour for a whole squash, to about 35 to 45 minutes for one cut in half. Not a huge difference, especially since baking spaghetti squash ahead of time works so well.
When I’m baking spaghetti squash, I prefer to cut it beforehand. It’s tough, and it’s annoying, and it usually ends up with me calling the squash names, but all in all I’d rather get it over with early. That way I don’t end up having to deal with a hot squash and cutting it up while trying to make the rest of dinner.
If you decide on baking the spaghetti squash whole rather than cutting it, be sure to poke it all over with a knife or skewer, about 8 or 10 times. If you don’t, the steam released by the cooking squash can build up on the inside, and make the squash explode. Wasteful and messy.
Which Way To Cut?
So there’s one more thing to think about before cutting and baking spaghetti squash: do you cut the squash lengthwise and end up with halves shaped kind of like boats? Or cut it crosswise so each half looks more like a mug?
It all depends on how long you want your strands to be. The strands don’t go from one end of the squash to the other. They actually wrap around it crosswise. So you can get longer strands cutting it crosswise.
- Longer strands look more like actual spaghetti, and give a bit more of an elegant look. And you can twirl it around a fork, which is neat.
- Shorter strands are easier to eat.
I prefer the short strands myself. It’s true, I don’t get the long, pretty strands, but all in all it’s easier to grab a bit of everything on my fork that way!
- Once you’ve cut the squash in half, you can cut it again in quarters if you like. It won’t bake all that much faster though, since the pieces will still be just as thick. All it does is make the strands shorter whenever you cut it lengthwise.
Baking Spaghetti Squash
Once it’s washed and cut up, baking spaghetti squash is super easy. Just pop it in the oven and wait! Here’s how you do it.
- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- Anywhere from 350F to 400F will work just fine. 400F is a bit on the hot side and will cook the squash faster, but it might make it caramelize. It’s not a bad thing, but it’ll mean a few odd, browned strands that won’t taste like the rest.
- Place the squash on a baking sheet. If you cut it, place it cut side down. If not, be sure to poke holes in it to let the steam vent.
- You can rub oil or spices on the squash before baking it, but it’s not necessary. The steam will keep the squash from burning. Also, you usually serve spaghetti squash with a sauce or something like that, so it doesn’t really need any seasoning while it cooks.
- If you want an even easier clean up, you can line the baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
- Bake the spaghetti squash in the preheated oven until it’s done. You can test to see if it’s done with a sharp knife. Poke the skin, and the knife should slide in easily.
- An uncut spaghetti squash will take about an hour to bake.
- A cut squash will take less time, about 35 minutes.
- Over-cooking the squash will turn it to mush and you won’t get the spaghetti strands. So keep an eye on it!
- Let the squash cool about 10 or 15 minutes before handling it.
And that’s it! You now have a baked spaghetti squash.
- If you decided on baking the spaghetti squash whole, now you have to deal with cutting it and scooping out the seeds. When it’s cool enough to handle, slice it in half, lengthwise or crosswise. Be careful because the inside will still be very hot. You should be able to scoop the seeds right out. Don’t use too much pressure or you’ll end up scooping out good squash, too!
Getting The Strands
The whole point of baking spaghetti squash is to get those nice spaghetti-like strands. So your job isn’t quite done yet! Once the squash is cooked and has cooled down a little, you can grab a fork and get ready to spaghettify it.
Here’s how you do it.
- Grab a regular dinner fork.
- Scrape the sides of the squash.
- I find that scraping lengthwise works best. It’s going against the direction the strands are in, and gets them out better.
- The only exception is the two tips – the strands are tougher to get out there, and I find scraping crosswise helps.
- Scoop out the strands and place them in a bowl. You can remove them as you scrape to give yourself more room to work with.
Your spaghetti squash strands will keep for a few weeks in the fridge in an airtight container. Or, you can freeze them in an airtight container, but they can get mushy when you defrost them. If that happens, they won’t really look like spaghetti strands at all.
You can also store the cooked spaghetti squash before scraping out the strands, but there’s not really any advantage to doing that except for the fun of procrastinating.
And that’s all there is to baking spaghetti squash. Of course, now that you have your nifty, yummy spaghetti squash strands, you’ll want to dress them up a little bit. Something as simple as butter or olive oil and sautéed garlic can be wonderful, but you can also add vegetables, meat and cheeses – Parmesan and feta are especially nice with baked spaghetti squash.