Spaghetti squash is a versatile vegetable, but it has a reputation for being intimidating to prepare... not to mention time-consuming. Heating it up in the oven can take at least 30-40 minutes, which is a definite time-suck for those who want to get dinner on the table, stat.
Fortunately, there is a much faster way to cook this beast: zapping it in the good ol' microwave.
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One of the frustrating things about spaghetti squash is that it takes Herculean strength to crack it open. This is where the beauty and ease of a microwave comes in.
To begin, score the squash with a knife and poke a few holes with a fork for proper ventilation. Then, microwave the squash whole for a few minutes; as a baseline, five minutes is standard for softening the hard shell. However, this can vary depending on your microwave.
I want to stress that it's important not to cook the squash completely at this point: this primary step just makes it easier to cut the squash.
Be aware that even through the squash will be more pliable, it will still take a little elbow grease to cut it in half. Always make sure to watch out for your fingers and place a folded kitchen towel between the board and the squash to get a strong grip on the often slippery sucker.
Extra safety tip: make sure to always cut away from your body, especially when you are trying to chop something as tough as spaghetti squash.
After the squash is cut in half, scoop and discard the seeds and pulp. Then, flip both halves face-down onto a microwave-safe baking dish and fill the dish with 1 inch of water. (Alternatively, you can always cook one of the halves and save the other in the fridge for another day.)
Heat it for another 5-10 minutes, or until the flesh offers little resistance to being pierced with a fork. Be aware that spaghetti squash will still have a definitive crunch when it is fully cooked and the temptation to continue to cook it until completely tender is a common mistake for those not familiar with its unique texture.
When the squash is finished cooking, carefully remove it from the microwave—I recommend using oven mitts, as it will be very hot—and remove the squash from the microwaved dish. Then, use a fork to gently pull the flesh away from the rind; using a fork will form "noodles." Be sure to follow the direction of the strands in the squash to form the longest noodles possible.
Once you've finished extracting all of the noodles from the rind, discard the rind and use the noodles in any preparation you prefer.
For nights that you just want a simple pasta, you have the base for a cacio e pepe dish with a little pepper and grated Parmesan added to the mix. If you feel a little more ambitious, a sweet and savory pad Thai recipe will satisfy any Thai food cravings, but without the empty calories and carbohydrates that normal noodles normally require.
And there you have it: no need to fear spaghetti squash anymore! Now you can fulfill your pasta cravings with minimal preparation and cooking in your kitchen, thanks to a little know-how and the ever-handy microwave.