Roasted spaghetti squash is a Paleo diet staple, yet it’s a point of struggle for many. Most of the time it ends up mushy — that is, of course, if you can manage to crack into the thing with all of your digits in tact.
The number one culprit for soggy, mushy, nasty spaghetti squash? The microwave. If you are shooting for al dente strands of spaghetti squash then the microwave is not your friend. Good ol’ oven-roasting is the way to make the magic happen.
If you’re using the oven and still have mushy squash, here are some other ideas to troubleshoot:
- was the temperature too low?
- was it cooked for too long?
- was the pan covered?
- was too much liquid added to the pan?
Remember that roasting means dry heat envelopes the food and is generally considered to be at a higher temperature like 400°F to 450°F as opposed to baking, which hovers around 325°F to 350°F. As a rule of thumb, when you roast something you want to ensure that as much surface area of the food is exposed and has equal access to high-heat. Depending on what you roast, you may prefer to season the foods and oil them up for a beautiful brown crust to the exterior, though that won’t apply to spaghetti squash. Here we need to focus on consistent, high-temp cooking.
Here’s how to do that.
Prep the squash for roasting:
Many folks out there advise to use a small knife (AKA a paring knife) to score the shell first before following up with a larger knife to crack into it. I actually prefer to grab the largest cleaver I have, instead. I get a corner wedged into the side where I want the squash to split and then I use all my might to press the corner down. Now I can use the cleaver like a splitter and essentially break the squash in two, the way a large log is split for fire wood. Of course, feel free to play around with a method that you’re comfortable with.
Once the squash is split in two halves, use a sturdy spoon to remove the inner seeds and pulp, discard.
Tip: Save the seeds for your spring gardens! You can order The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook for a guide on how to grow thriving gardens and even how to raise animals — plus make really great food using the ingredients you’ve cultivated yourself!
Now the squash is prepared to go into a roasting pan.
Choose the right pan:
Spaghetti squash will stick with the best of them, so you want to choose your pan wisely. Look for a dish that can either be seasoned (like a stoneware baker) or is naturally non-stick (like a ceramic-glazed dish or a high-quality stainless steel pan). I personally lean toward a stainless pan, but that’s my preference.
Here are some examples of what will be the best for roasting spaghetti squash:
You’ve got the squash, you’ve got the pan, now it’s time to roast!
Lay the squash cut-side down in the pan and add in about 2 tablespoons of water. A little bit of H20 does the job.
Place the squash in a preheated 400°F oven and roast uncovered for 35-40 minutes, depending on the size of the squash.
When the timer dings, remove the pan from the oven. Keep your oven mitts on and turn the squash over to let off some steam…literally. They should hang out and cool cut-side up for a couple minutes.
Tip! Did the squash lift away easily from the pan? If not, use the deglaze method to help release the squash! Pour about a cup of WARM water into the pan and swirl it around the squash. The water will help to loosen the squash from the pan without loosing any of the strands. Note that if you use cold water on certain pans, it may cause damage.
Harvest the Strands
Put that oven mitt back on or at least grab a clean dish towel to hold onto the squash. It’s gonna be too hot to handle without some kind of protective gear, so suit up accordingly. Since I’m right handed, I hold the squash in my left hand and then use my right to scrape out the squash strands.
Here’s the trick — you want to use a fork and scrape with the grain of the strands to loosen them up within the shell first. It’s a scrape-slash-fluff kind of motion. Then once much of it is loosened, turn the strands out into a bowl or a pan or whatever makes sense for the meal you’re preparing.
At this point, I use my fork to scrape against the grain of the strands to grab the stragglers. This ensures every last bit is cleaned out of the shells.
I like to reserve the shells of my squash and use them as “boats” for a twice-baked approach or as a fun way to serve a meal. OK, who am I kidding? It totally saves me from dirtying yet another dish that I’ll have to wash when I dump everything back into the shells versus breaking out a serving platter. I’m not in denial about my level of laziness, guys…
I once tried the alternative method of slicing the squash into rings and roasting. It looked a little bit like this:
The idea is that by roasting rings, long strands which more closely resemble spaghetti noodles are produced. Thing is, I found that my squash was mushier than usual and that it was a bit more effort than the method described above. So could you do it? Yep. Is it worth it? Meh… I didn’t think so.