Well, more specifically, 17 days. Until this.
For those of you too lazy to click the link–don’t worry, I completely understand–I’m talking about Coachella.
No matter where you stand on the spectrum of opinion regarding Coachella (which usually boils down to ‘Yaaaasss!!’ or ‘Ugh, pretentious and privileged hipster playground’), we can all generally agree on two things about this festival:
- Man, Indio is hot this time of year.
- Wow, people do not wear very much because of the desert temperatures.
So whenever Coachella looms on the horizon… and I have a ticket in my grubby hands… I like to use Coachella as my motivation to get in shape as a segue-way into the summer season. But working out is only 50% of the hard work involved–and honestly, I’d even go as far to say it’s even less than that.
Goodbye, carb and alcohol-based diet…
…and hello, sustainable healthy substitutes! (Well, at least for the carbohydrates.)
I’d tried making spaghetti squash once before a few years ago and was thoroughly turned off by it. So I figured that when I started eating less carbs, I’d have to give up Italian pasta-based dishes as well. I resigned myself (and James) to a plethora of vegetable-based soups and salads for the unforeseeable future.
Well, that got old… really, really old. And so, I found myself at the grocery store the other week, frowning in thought in front of the squash produce. Well, what did I have to lose?
I surfed around a few food blogs to look for suggestions on how to cook the squash best and ran across a few sites that suggested baking the squash in rings as opposed to 2 halves. ‘Hmm… well, why not give it a try?’ I thought. And I’m really glad I did–because all of the issues I had previously with spaghetti squash were fixed by this different method. The noodles were long, not short… they were more “al dente” as opposed to mushy… and they tasted fantastic!
Obviously, using spaghetti squash noodles is more labor-intensive than boiling a pot of salted water and throwing in dried pasta. But if you’re looking for a viable substitute for pasta, I can’t think of a better way to still enjoy your favorite pasta dishes.
I’ve found that microwaving the squash for a few minutes first makes it much easier to cut into–which is really important when you’re cutting the squash into rings. Don’t forget to poke holes around the squash before you place it in the oven, though–otherwise you’ll have a giant, exploding squash-y mess on your hands.
Be sure to handle the squash with oven mitts when you take it out of the microwave and slice it. It’s going to be quite hot! The rings need to be at least 1-2½ inches in thickness–otherwise, the ‘meat’ of the squash will overcook and become mushy.
After they’re baked, use a fork to gently pull the strands toward the center of the ring. Since the striation of the ‘meat’ is goes along the width of the squash, the noodles will pull apart very easily and end up just as long as regular noodles!
I like making these noodles at the beginning of the week and keeping them in the fridge to use as needed–that way, I’m less tempted to opt out of making something healthy later. Obviously, the consistency and flavor are going to be a lot different from pasta… but the ‘mouthfeel’ of the squash noodles is similar enough to pasta for me. And they function much in the same way regular pasta does–they carry a hearty sauce very well.
So whether you have Coachella coming up… or you just want to give yourself healthier options… spaghetti squash noodles are a great option. Actually, this recipe reminds me of a joke:
What do you call fake noodles?
Okay, I’ll see myself out now…
Spaghetti Squash Noodles
- 4 lb. spaghetti squash
- salt, to taste
- Poke holes around the spaghetti squash, making sure that you penetrate into the cavity of the squash (usually 1-2 inches from the surface). BE CAREFUL with the knife as it will likely get stuck in the flesh when you try to pull it out of the squash.
- Place on a plate and microwave for 5 minutes. Normal setting at full power is fine and won’t cook the squash; we just want to soften it to make it easier to slice through.
- While the squash is heating in the microwave, pre-heat the oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Remove from the microwave with oven mitts–the squash will be hot!
- Place on a cutting board and using either a chef’s knife or a cleaver, slice into several rings along the width of the squash. The rings should be no larger than 1-1½ inches in width.
- Remove the center pulp and seeds from the rings by gutting around the inner edges with a spoon. You can choose to do this on your cutting board or on your baking sheet.
- Place your squash rings on your lined baking sheet (if you haven’t already) with your end pieces facing upward (the flesh facing up and not into the lining). Bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove the baking sheet from the oven and gently pull at the inside of each ring with a fork. The strands will pull away from the ring quite easily while still being “al dente”. Continue to pull from the inside of the ring until you reach the skin.
- Place the noodles on a plate. Try to evenly distribute the noodles in a single layer as best you can–we don’t want them to cook any further and become overly soft.
- Discard the skin and repeat the process for all of the rings.
- When the noodles have cooled down, salt to taste.
- Combine the finished noodles with a sauce of your choice for serving, or store in the fridge with an airtight container for up to 3-4 days for use at your convenience.