Pasta imposter

The next-to-last CSA box of the summer contained a vegetable that brought back memories of my early attempts at cooking vegetarian food; that favorite of low-carb fanatics everywhere, the spaghetti squash.

Now, the only way this vegetable would taste like spaghetti would be if you’d never eaten pasta before and didn’t know any better. I’d have to be pretty desperate for carbs to pour a good marinara over the stuff and hum “Bella Notte.” But if you work with its unique qualities, spaghetti squash is pretty good.

The squash must be cooked before it spaghettifies. You can microwave it, but I prefer to cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and place it cut side down on a non-stick baking sheet. Then, bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes, or until a fork easily pierces the skin. Use a fork to rake out the pulp, which emerges in thin threads; hence the name.

The result is pale yellow, crunchy and sweet-tasting; in flavor like a cross between acorn and summer squashes. It’s ready to eat as-is, but many recipes put it in casseroles with cheeses and tomatoes and bake it again. My original go-to recipe for spaghetti squash was from “The Moosewood Cookbook” by Mollie Katzen, that Bible for vegetarians in the ’70s. It had a lot of cheese in it, as I recall.

I was feeling carnivorous, so I made a spicy sauce of tomatoes, olive oil, hot Italian sausage, garlic, parsley, oregano and plenty of aleppo pepper.

I simply stirred in the spaghetti squash. I thought the spiciness of the sauce would work with the sweetness of the squash, and I was right. The crunchy texture of the strands also provided a nice contrast to the richness of the sauce. And I didn’t have to wear Birkenstocks to cook it.

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