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I made a spaghetti squash, and I am really proud of it

Impress your friends with the simplicity of squash

<p>Once roasted and the insides shredded, a spaghetti squash can be used as a delicious substitute for spaghetti pasta noodles.&nbsp;</p>

Once roasted and the insides shredded, a spaghetti squash can be used as a delicious substitute for spaghetti pasta noodles. 

Fall is notorious for pumpkins and the excessive addition of pumpkin spice to just about anything, but what is often overshadowed is the delicacy of squash. Sure, pumpkin seeds are a delicious snack when roasted, but what else can feasibly be made from the actual pumpkin? In my house, pumpkin bread is typically made from a mix to avoid any kitchen disasters, and I believe pumpkin spice lattes hardly count as real pumpkin flavoring. However, spaghetti squash is insanely easy to roast yourself and is full of naturally sweet flavors.

I was hesitant to buy a spaghetti squash the first time I spotted one at the Charlottesville City Market. I convinced myself that after only a month in my own kitchen, I was not an experienced enough chef to cook the squash myself. Once I returned home, I almost immediately started looking up squash recipes for inspiration and then realized it may not be so hard to conquer. A few days later, I went to Trader Joe’s and once again stumbled upon the now-less-intimidating spaghetti squash. Without hesitation, I passed by the abundance of pumpkin spice options and placed the spaghetti squash in my cart instead.

While I was at the store, I also bought marinara sauce, parmesan cheese and pre-cooked grilled chicken, which I decided to pair with some cherry tomatoes I had previously purchased at the farmers market. They are some of my typical pasta add-ins when I cook for myself and want to be a bit fancier and more creative than mac and cheese. I chose not to follow any specific recipe online and assumed my usual “pasta to sauce to protein” ratio would translate well enough to the squash. 

The hardest part of preparing the squash was waiting for it to roast. The 40 minutes it takes to roast feels like an eternity when you’re overly excited about the delicious dinner ahead, so make sure to start cooking before your hunger reaches hanger. 

For this recipe you’ll need the following:

1 spaghetti squash

1-2 tablespoons of olive oil

2 cups of your favorite marinara sauce

A handful of halved cherry tomatoes

Trader Joe’s “heat and serve” chicken strips (optional protein source)

Salt and pepper to taste

A sprinkle of parmesan cheese

A baking sheet

A sauce pan

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven is heating up, place the spaghetti squash in the microwave for two to four minutes to soften it before cutting it in half. Slice it down the middle carefully lengthwise, or what I still call “hot-dog style.” Once opened, scrape the seeds and insides out with a spoon and rub the inside of the squash with olive oil and salt and pepper for flavoring. Place the squash on a baking sheet facedown, so that the rounded side of the squash is up and place in the oven for 40 minutes to roast. 

Once the squash is fully roasted and soft enough to pull apart, use a fork to shred the insides into pasta-like strands. The squash will then have a shape that resembles spaghetti — hence the name — and can be used as a useful replacement for a typically carb-loaded meal, or just as a simple, yet adventurous, meal to impress your friends.

While the squash is roasting, cut your cherry tomatoes in half and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, along with any other desired spices. Once the timer for the squash is down to about 10 minutes, toss the tomatoes on the baking sheet with the squash so they get a little roasted too. This is the perfect way to add some bursting, fresh flavor to premade marinara sauce.

Once the squash is done roasting and you’ve shredded the insides, toss your marinara sauce in a saucepan. Add in the squash and stir until it’s fully coated, like you would with any other pasta dish. Add the tomatoes to the saucepan and any additional garlic or pepper, along with sliced grilled chicken strips for a source of protein. Stir in the cheese so that it melts in with the sauce, and serve with even more cheese sprinkled on top because there is really never enough cheese.

You can eat the squash out of your favorite pasta bowl or even place it back in the gutted squash if you want to resemble a trendy Instagram food blogger. Or you can eat it right out of the saucepan because it really is that good. Impress your friends by ditching the basic pumpkin spice, and cook them this simple meal instead.

Maddie McNamee is a Food Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com

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