Spaghetti squash: A great pasta alternative

Cooked spaghetti squash mimics the look of spaghetti yet provides a low carb, very low calorie delicious substitute from the typical pasta dish.

Appearing in local grocery stores and farm markets in late summer, and well into the winter months, is spaghetti squash. This lesser known variety of winter squash is a nutritious low calorie mild flavored vegetable.  Spaghetti squash with its unique long spaghetti-like strands offers countless options for any cook looking for an alternative to regular pasta or a new vegetable dish.

Coming in at only 42 calories per cup, spaghetti squash is packed with vitamin C, vitamin B-6, fiber and antioxidants delivering nutrition, taste and versatility.  The versatility continues as spaghetti squash can be prepared by roasting, baking, boiling or microwaving making it a good choice for all levels of cooking experience. Once spaghetti squash is thoroughly cooked the flesh easily separates into long strands which lend to further preparation options.  Whether topped with sauce or drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with parmesan cheese, meal options are endless. The Michigan Fresh program by Michigan State University Extension helps people learn more about fresh Michigan produce and has fact sheets that share selecting, cooking and storage information.  Michigan Fresh also offers a short video demonstrating prepping and baking a spaghetti squash.

Selecting spaghetti squash is made easy due to the thick tough outer shell that protects the inner flesh. Look at the outer flesh and inspect it for signs of damage or decay; choose firm unbruised ones.  Spaghetti squash, which are oblong in shape, vary in color from ivory, pale yellow or orange. Check the weight of each spaghetti squash and select only those that feel heavy and firm. Generally the weight ranges from 3.5 to 5 lbs. and yields about 8 cups when cooked.

Whether you are looking for a new fall side dish, or a unique substitute from traditional pasta, spaghetti squash is a healthy economical choice and could be a new family favorite.

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