My parents are liars. I just found out that they used to feed me spaghetti squash when I was a kid under the guise of it being pasta. What trickery! All that I believed to be true in this world has been shaken and questioned. What other facts of my life, once the foundation of my existence, are also untrue? Was my dad’s famous Chicken Cacciatore really just cleverly disguised rutabaga? Was he really a boiler Engineer by day as we were all led to believe, or was he an international spy or arms dealer?
I don’t yet have children, but I wonder if I’ll perpetuate the same little white food lies in the name of tricking young, picky palates with healthy foods – a kind of veggie Trojan Horse to lower their irrational defences. I probably will, as I’ve been told we all fall prey to the same devices as our well-meaning parents. I forgive you, Mom. Had I known your were trying to feed me a vegetable, I would probably have feigned insult or nausea and fallen out of my high chair in disgust. I know my childhood diet of Lucky Charms cereal and Captain Highliner Fishsticks must have been difficult to overcome.
It’s easy to see how my unsuspecting brother and I could have been so easily duped. Spaghetti Squash is true to its name in that it really does pass for pasta. Italian children, likely possessing a more evolved appreciation for pasta, would probably smell the ruse a mile away and push their plates away with a haughty air – “Ma-ma, what eez zis sporcizia?!” (unfortunately, all my ethnic impersonations end up sounding Parisian).
When prepared right, the taste is uncanny and offers a healthy, low carb alternative to pasta. When cooked, its flesh falls away like strips of spaghetti. Last weekend I witnessed this firsthand during a family visit to Saltspring Island, where my mom and I prepared this healthy squash casserole. No matter how you cook it though, you may still want to call it spaghetti if serving to kids. And don’t forget to hide the peas in the mashed potato, while you’re at it.
Preparation and Cook time: 1 hour and 15 Minutes (mostly cook time)
1 medium spaghetti squash, halved and seeded
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
3/4 cup cottage cheese
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
4 tbsp dry breadcrumbs, seasoned with 1/4 tsp each of salt, pepper, fresh or dried oregano and paprika
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare the squash, either by boiling, baking or microwaving. I baked mine, though I’ve microwaved other members of the squash family in the past and find it also a quick and easy method. The outer skin is quite tough to cut, so be careful with your knife. Cut it in half lengthwise. For a slightly easier way, place the whole squash in the oven for 5 minutes to soften the skin a bit before cutting. Scrape out the seeds and pulp as you would with any squash or pumpkin.
- Bake cut side down for about 30 minutes at 400 F (recommended)
- or Microwave 6 to 8 minutes
- or Boil 20 minutes in a large pot of water
2. Once cooked using either of these methods above, separate the “spaghetti” strands of the squash by running a fork through the flesh from stem to stem. You’ll get the hang of it after a few tries once you see how easy it is. Scrape the strands into a large bowl.
3. In a large skillet or frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the onion and garlic until soft, about 3 minutes, then add the chopped basil and stir for another minute. Add the chopped tomatoes and stir for another 5 minutes.
4. In the bowl with the squash strands, add the cottage cheese, beaten egg, mozzarella, salt and the tomato mixture from the frying pan. Toss well.
5. Place in a baking or casserole dish. All we had were those aluminum dishes that one might get with Chinese Take-out, but it did the trick. Sprinkle evenly with the parmesan cheese and then cover with the seasoned breadcrumbs. Bake for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees.