Hey Dad, I Finally Like Spaghetti Squash!

ImageNo, this is not a picture of a sea anemone. It's spaghetti squash. And though my mom doesn't like it, she makes it all the time for my dad since it's his favorite type of squash. Her favorite, by the way, is buttercup. I know this because the three of us have the same conversation every year as if it's a revelation:

Dad: "What did you buy at the farmers' market this week?"

Me: "Some butternut squash."

Mom: "Ooh, yeah? I love butternut squash. But you know what's even better? Buttercup. You should try it."

Me: "Yeah, Mom, I have tried it, but I don't like it as much as butternut."

Mom: "How could you not like buttercup squash?!"

Dad: "You know what the best squash is? Spaghetti squash. Your mother makes it with tomato sauce and cheese. Oh, I love it like that. You should try it."

Me: "Yeah, Dad, I have tried it, but I don't like it as much as butternut."

Mom: "Oh, yes, your father loves that spaghetti squash. I don't. Blegh."

Dad: "How could you not like spaghetti squash?!" (Then, convinced that this is the year he will persuade me) "Well, you don't know what you're missing."

Well, Dad, you'll be happy to hear I finally agree with you. I didn't know what I was missing, until last week. My local supermarket had a sale on winter squash, so I ran right over to stock up on acorn and butternut, only to find a bin filled with a dozen spaghetti squash. Yeah, sure, I thought, that's cause no one wants it. Since I cannot pass up a bargain, I bought one anyway.

ImageI had buyer's remorse the minute I got home. I didn't want it with tomato sauce. Let's face it, spaghetti squash is not the same as spaghetti no matter how hard you try. Then I thought of making an herb pesto but was all out of sage. And that's when it hit me. My favorite way to eat real spaghetti is with butter and salt.

Once the squash was cooked, I excitedly scooped out the cooked flesh, which is the best part of cooking spaghetti squash anyway. Then I added butter, salt and black pepper, and some grated Reggiano-Parmigiano.

It was good. OK, it was better than good. It was delicious. It tasted like, well, spaghetti. The firm luminescent gold strands of flesh become deliciously coated with melted butter just like pasta. For a richer more savory flavor, sprinkle some fresh thyme, rosemary, or parsley on the squash before serving. This is a simple, fresh, and comforting side dish that I'll be happy to make again.

My parents and I will likely have our annual squash talk this week. I have a feeling it's going to end a little differently this year though. So, what's your favorite squash?

Baked Spaghetti Squash with Butter and Cheese

Makes 4 servings

1 small spaghetti squash (about 2 pounds), halved lengthwise, seeds removed
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon butter
2 tablespoons grated Reggiano-Parmigiana cheese, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish
a few pinches of coarse sea salt and several cranks of freshly ground black pepper
a sprinkling of fresh thyme, basil, or parsley, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking pan with tinfoil (for easy clean up). Place squash halves flesh side down and pierce all over with a fork. Cook for 45-50 minutes, or until tender.

Using a fork scrape the hot flesh from the squash and place in a bowl. Add butter, 2 tablespoons cheese, and salt and pepper. Lightly toss until well combined. Garnish with remaining 2 tablespoons cheese and herbs, if using. Serve immediately.


Susan Russo is a free lance food writer in San Diego, California. She publishes stories, recipes, and photos on her cooking blog, <Food Blogga and is a regular contributor to NPR’s <Kitchen Window. She is also the author of two upcoming books that will be published in the fall of 2010.