How to make spaghetti squash exciting

Don’t laugh. It really is possible. And I’ve got the recipe to prove it.

A spaghetti squash, waiting for an interesting recipe to pop up.

You see, I love squash. Butternut, Buttercup, Gold Nugget, Acorn, Giraumon, you name it, simply cut into pieces and roasted around a chicken or a pork roast. I even like pumpkin, for soups and cakes and such. But just like Time After Time was Pavement’s least favorite song, spaghetti squash is my least favorite squash. Every time we get one in our CSA basket, it just sort of sits there and stares at us, waiting for us to do something with it.

One thing’s for sure, you need to spice it up. By itself, the spaghetti-like strands are a little watery and bland. I’ve curried it with reasonable success – the kids only shrugged, adults thought it was okay – spiced it up butter, salt, pepper and parmesan cheese, but still not enough to get anyone really excited.

Until tonight.

You see, when we got our latest CSA basket, there was a jar of fresh-made pesto along for the ride with the squash – and the rest of the organic meat and veggies. Which helped a lightbulb go on when I started preparations for tonight’s pork roast. What if I put some pesto in the spaghetti squash… and some tomato and pepper and garlic and olive oil and parmesan… It just fell into place, and off I went.

I cut the squash in half, lengthwise, took out the seeds and stuff, placed the two pieces cut side down in a baking dish, with half-an-inch of water at the bottom of the dish, and set it in the oven, preheated to 350° F. 45 minutes to an hour should do the trick – and if you’re in a rush, you can always pop the cut squash, with water, in the microwave for 9-10 minutes.

While the squash is cooking, mix a couple of teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil with a couple of teaspoons of tomato concentrate (tomato paste), a couple of teaspoons of pesto, a crushed garlic clove and some salt and pepper. When the squash is cooked, scrape the strands out and mix them with the tomato-pesto-garlic mixture. Add freshly grated parmesan (a good half-cup, at least, more to taste), keeping some to sprinkle over the top after you place the mixture in a baking dish. For one squash, use a rectangular loaf pan, so the mixture is thick enough: it will avoid it drying too much. Bake until the mixture bubbles up nicely and the cheese on top is golden-brown. Half an hour at 375° F should do it.

Spaghetti squash gratin, creamy and flavorful on the inside, crispy and tasty on top.

The reaction at the table was fantastic. “Awesome!”, said my youngest. “It’s really good, dad, it almost doesn’t taste like squash”, said my enthusiastic son. I have to agree that it was more like spaghetti than squash, and the parmesan gave the whole dish a great lift.

I’ve never seen squash disappear off the plates that quick. It was a very exciting side dish, with a pork roast basted with an olive oil, herbs and mustard rub, and some sautéed crosnes (also called Chinese artichokes) freshly picked from the garden. Those also disappeared very quickly from the plates – but that, as they say, is another recipe.

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