I always get requests to make spaghetti squash recipes, but never get the chance because it’s always so expensive around here. So, the other day when I happened upon a spaghetti squash sale for $0.99/lb. (organic, too!), I jumped on it. The tricky thing about spaghetti squash is that even though the per-pound price is low, those suckers can be huge and the price adds up quickly. If you’re lucky you can find smaller spaghetti squashes, but these were all enormous. I grabbed the smallest one, which weighed in at 5.33 lbs. and carried it home with me.
There are several ways to cook spaghetti squash and they all have their plusses and minuses. Since this baby was monster-sized and I didn’t want to even attempt cutting it open when raw, I opted for my slow cooker. Luckily, the gigantic squash just barely fit within my walls of my slow cooker. Making slow cooker spaghetti squash is nice because A) it doesn’t heat up your whole house, B) you don’t have to cut it first (cutting large raw squash can be scary and dangerous because of their tough skin), and C) You don’t have to babysit it. Well, maybe a little, but the slow cooking process is a bit more forgiving than hotter methods, like the oven, so you can wander around and do other things.
Below I have directions for easy slow cooker spaghetti squash and tomorrow you can see what I made with the cooked squash. But for now we’ll just cover the basics of how to cook the strange thing.
Slow Cooker Spaghetti Squash
Never heard of spaghetti squash? Well you’re in for a surprise. This amazing vegetable has flesh that separates into spaghetti-like strands once cooked. It looks like a yellow blimp, or a more rounded football, and contains seeds in the center very much like a pumpkin. Word on the street is that you can clean and roast the seeds just like pumpkin seeds, but I didn’t get many out of mine so it didn’t see worth the effort.
Once cooked many people use the noodle-like strands just as you would regular spaghetti. It’s a great low-carb alternative, a good way to increase your vegetable intake, and will give you plenty of fiber. ;)
Spaghetti squash come in all sizes, so each will take a different amount of time to cook and yield a different number of servings. I’ve seen them small and round, at about 2 lbs., all the way up to the monster I was working with today at over 5 lbs. This big squash took about 5 hours in my slow cooker and yielded about 6 cups of mock-spaghetti (about $0.89 per one cup serving).
Step by Step Photos
The first step is to clean the outside of the spaghetti squash well. Next, use a paring knife to poke several holes in the skin of the squash so that steam can escape as it cooks. My poor squash must have gotten damaged in the ride home because when I took it out today I found a hairline crack all around the outside. But that’s okay, the crack just acted as another steam vent.
Next just place the squash in your slow cooker. My slow cooker is either a 5 or 6 quart (not sure, I’ve had it forever) and this 5 lb. squash barely fit end to end. It also came within millimeters of hitting the lid. Close call.
Place the lid on the cooker and turn it on to high. And then walk away. The total cooking time will depend on how large the squash is. I’d recommend a minimum 3 hours on high (5-6 hours on low), and then add an extra hour for every pound over 3 pounds. The thick ceramic walls of the slow cooker act as a mini-oven and slowly bake the squash.
Since the cook time is NOT an exact science, here is how you can tell it’s done. Press into the skin firmly with your finger (it will be hot, so do this quickly or cover your finger with a towel). If the skin dents in, it’s done. If the exterior is still hard and does not give at all to your pressure, it needs more time. It will not be “soft” per se, but it will dent like the bumper of a car.
You should also be able to smell that characteristic slightly sweet cooked squash smell. Of course if you’re not familiar with that smell that won’t help, but for those of you who are, that’s another clue. Once it’s done, carefully lift it from the slow cooker onto a cutting board to cool. It probably won’t cool if left in the slow cooker because the ceramic holds a lot of residual heat.
Once it’s cool enough to handle, cut it in half along the equator, not end to end. The reason you want to cut it along the midline is that the strands run around the squash horizontally. If you cut it end to end you’ll be cutting the strands in half and will have very short segments. Cutting around the equator keeps the long strands intact and gives you more of a spaghetti-like feel. Use a spoon to scrape the seeds out of the center. You may get a few of the strands with the seeds, but that’s okay.
Once the seeds are removed, use a fork to pull the strands away from the tough skin. This is the fun part.
And now the spaghetti squash is ready to eat! It doesn’t taste like much on its own, but you can do so much with it. Just like real pasta, I like it with a bit of butter, herbs, and Parmesan. Marinara is a classic choice as well.
Feel free to share your favorite way to eat spaghetti squash in the comments below to help newbies out. I’ll have a new spaghetti squash recipe for you tomorrow!