Cold weather makes me want to curl up with something warm and rich. This craving sometimes comes with a need for cheese, other times for hot chocolate, maybe some soup, and more often than not pasta. The past week has been particularly frigid partially due to the dropping temps, but also because the boy turned off all my radiators last weekend without telling me. So as I sat on my couch, teeth chattering and blanket insufficient, I decided I needed to not only make something warm for dinner, but I also had to have an excuse to turn on my oven. And keep it on for a while.
Spaghetti squash wasn’t entirely foreign to me. I had attempted using it in place of pasta in my usual marinara-based recipes, but the slight sweetness of tomatoes did not mingle well with the spaghetti squash’s sweet flavor, no matter how I spiced it. Similar to how some couples are so alike that they are stuck in a state of unbalance, tomato sauce and spaghetti squash were just not meant to be. In a stroke of brilliance, I remembered a lemon cream pasta recipe I had seen in a magazine last year, and I thought maybe, juuuuust maybe, lemon would tame the squash sweetness successfully.
Lemon Cream Spaghetti-esque
Adapted from a recipe for “Light and Luscious Linguine in Lemon Cream Sauce,” from the September 2010 Vegetarian Times.
- 1 medium-sized spaghetti squash
- 4-ounces light cream cheese
- 2-ounces herb goat cheese
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1/2 cup low-fat milk
- Sprinkle of dried basil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Take your spaghetti squash and cut it in half lengthwise. Be safe and use a good knife, cause it’s one big gourd. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds from the middle.
If you google “How to cook spaghetti squash” you’ll get a wide variety of answers. I know this because I’ve tried to find a definitive answer every time I’ve cooked it. Let me save you some time and say that although this range of information may be intimidating, what you need to realize is that it means you can’t really mess the squash up unless you totally forget about it.
For me with my finicky oven, this is how I roll: place the halves cut-side down on a pan covered with cooking spray, and place the pan in a 375 degree oven for about 35 minutes. Take it out when a fork pierces the outside easily, and boom, you’re done. Set it aside and let it cool.
Combine the cream cheese, olive oil, lemon juice, and goat cheese in a saucepan over medium heat, whisking frequently. Once it’s almost fully melted, add the milk slowly until you get the consistency you want (mine took about a half cup until I was happy).
Onto the magical part. I know you’ve been thinking, “so I have this huge squash, and I have this pasta sauce, but I have no pasta.” WELL you’re in for some fun. Pick up one half of the squash, making sure it’s cool enough to handle, and use a fork to scrape out the insides. With each forkful you’ll get strands of “pasta” – hence the name spaghetti squash.
After you’ve scraped out both sides of the squash into a bowl, cover the pasta with the sauce and toss to fully incorporate. Dish up into three heaping bowls, sprinkle some dried basil, and serve with bread (you need to get your carbs somewhere…you know, for health reasons).
Now let’s get to the crucial question: Does it taste like pasta? yes and no. You’ll experience the satisfaction from twirling it round-and-round your fork, you’ll get to slurp up strands that are longer than the others, and the act of eating it is very much like a light angel hair noodle. What isn’t there, and never will be (it IS squash, after all), is the heartiness. It’s not a thick, heavy spaghetti noodle, but it IS a fun way to mix up the usual pasta night.
The most important part of this story, if I do say so myself (and I do), is that the lemon cream sauce was a PERFECT spaghetti squash companion. The lemon cuts the sweetness just enough, and the smooth, rich, cheesy sauce makes it feel more indulgent, which could reel in squash pasta skeptics (such as my carnivorous boyfriend). I devoured it, used my bread to soak up the extra sauce, and was left feeling like I made a pretty sweet (but not too sweet) discovery.