Meaty tomato and spinach ragu served over sweet spaghetti squash “noodles” and topped with mozzarella cheese… mmm… yum!
I’m going to chat on here for a minute about spaghetti squash, so if that sounds boring please feel free to jump straight down to the recipe here.
My experience with spaghetti squash.
This was my first time making “spaghetti” out of a spaghetti squash. I always liked the idea of spaghetti squash and I thought people who made were neat, but I was afraid of messing it up, so I avoided trying it myself.
Until now, of course. Lately I have found myself wanting to try new things in the kitchen… healthier things… ones that I can feel proud of sharing with my family and with you, my friends…
Because, why not, right? I mean, it doesn’t hurt to try a new food. If I don’t love something, I will just never make it again. No biggy. (this was my self-talk)
Before we get to my experience and what I learned, let’s first talk about why the concept of using spaghetti squash in place of pasta is so popular right now.
Why spaghetti squash is a good idea.
Okay, so the obvious perk here is going to be the health benefits of eating spaghetti squash, because, let’s face it… that are many health benefits to eating pasta, but there are plenty when you eat this big ole fruit, so let’s just go there real quick…
I pulled the nutrition facts from Nutritionix.com for one cup of whole grain pasta and one cup of spaghetti squash. The results are in the picture above. Carbs and calories are significantly higher with the pasta, of course, but what about those vitamins? Check those out! Here are some of the good things spaghetti squash has to offer you…
- vitamin A
- vitamin B
- vitamin C
- folic acid
- omega-3 essential fatty acids.
And how about WW Smart Points?
The recipe in this post makes between 4-6 cups of spaghetti squash (more or less, depending on the size of your squash). Mine made 4 cups so we will just use that to demonstrate the difference in WW FreeStyle Smart Points…
4 cups of spaghetti squash = 0 WW SP
4 cups of whole wheat spaghetti cooked = 19 WW SP
… so 3 WW SP per serving is saved by making this healthy swap.
One serving of the recipe below is 3 WW SP, so basically the WW SP per serving would double if you were using whole wheat spaghetti!
When we consider how the foods we eat affect our bodies, the squash wins every time. But maybe you have questions that go beyond nutrition. Here are some answers to the questions I had when I first made it… (feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this post if you have a question that I don’t answer here)
Does spaghetti squash taste like spaghetti?
No, it does not. Typical pasta is bland in flavor so it is not typically eaten alone. Spaghetti squash has a sweet, buttery flavor to it. While spaghetti squash does not taste just like spaghetti, the flavor happens to pair well with the kinds of foods that you would serve with spaghetti, which is why people love to make it a healthy swap. Both are delicious in their own way when cooked and served with the right foods.
Is the texture of spaghetti squash the same as spaghetti?
No, it is not. The strands, or “noodles” as we call it, are quite thin, like angel hair pasta only not quite. The “noodles” are soft, but they have a crunch to them. The best part of the whole process of making spaghetti squash noodles is the way the strands pull apart effortlessly after it is baked. It’s so fun! For real, you have to try it just for that! I will definitely let my kids help me with that step next time I make it.
Would I recommend that everyone try it at least once?
YUP!! And that is why I am sharing this recipe today!
How do you make spaghetti squash?
Prior to making this recipe I had heard lots of mixed reviews about spaghetti squash, so I was hesitant to try it. I did some research online trying to find the best ways to cut into, and cook, spaghetti squash and here is what I learned:
- Cutting a raw spaghetti squash can be dangerous! Spaghetti squash is really tough to cut into. Since it is round in shape with a REALLY hard skin, to halve it raw can actually be quite dangerous. (My Pampered Chef chef’s knife is really sharp, and it was no match to the spaghetti squash!) In today’s recipe I will show you how to skip the step of cutting it raw, bake it whole, and then cut it!
- I do not recommend microwaving the spaghetti squash. A quicker way to cook spaghetti squash is in the microwave. There are lots of places online that tell you how, but there are also plenty of stories online from those who have tried and the squash exploded in their microwave! I decided not to even try, and I did not feel comfortable suggesting that you should either.
- Spaghetti squash can be cooked in a slow cooker! You can cook a whole spaghetti squash in your slow cooker by adding 1-2 cups of water and cooking on LOW for 6-8 hours or on HIGH for 3-4 hours, or until tender. Then cut it in half, remove the seeds, and shred into “noodles.” I did not do this, because I did not give myself time, but I think I will try it next time.
- You can cut a raw spaghetti squash with an electric knife. Some people use an electric knife with a serrated blade to cut their raw spaghetti squash. I would still be a little bit leery of doing this myself. Therefore, I am not suggesting you should do this, but I do know that others have had success with it so I thought it was worth mentioning.
All in all, I felt most comfortable suggesting that my readers do the cook-the-whole-spaghetti-squash and then cut it method of making spaghetti squash, so that is what you will see in this recipe.The Kitchen Girl is where I got my information from, but this concept/method is all over the place. If you google it, you will find it.
Is cutting a raw spaghetti squash dangerous?
When my friend, Sarah, tried to tell me that cutting into a spaghetti squash was dangerous because it was so hard to cut into, I thought, “Oh! Well, she doesn’t have a Pampered Chef chef’s knife.” NOPE! I was wrong. Like I said above, my Pampered Chef knife (strong and sharp as it is) was no match for my beast of a spaghetti squash.
With the tip of my chef’s knife barely poked into my spaghetti squash I announced to my husband, “I don’t think this is a good idea!” and my son was like, “Yeah, mom, that doesn’t look safe”.
Obviously, I do not want to teach any of my readers to cook ANYTHING in a way that is not safe. Right? So, I did some research, and that’s when I found The Kitchen Girl, and I took her advice…
How I cooked a raw spaghetti squash without cutting it first.
By the recommendation of The Kitchen Girl, here is what I did…
When I cooked our spaghetti squash, I preheated the oven to 375° and pierced the skin of the squash in several places with a paring knife. Then I placed the squash in a glass casserole dish, but any baking sheet/stoneware would do, and I baked it for 60 minutes.
After the initial baking cycle, I took it out of the oven, and cut the squash in half lengthwise (I have since learned that you can cut it width-wise if you want to get longer strands of “spaghetti”). Then, I scooped out the seeds.
Then, I sprayed the inside flesh with cooking spray, placed it back on casserole dish flesh face down, and cooked it for 20 more minutes. My spaghetti squash was small. You may need a little longer than that for bigger squashes. You’ll know it’s cooked when the “noodles” separate effortlessly.
Okay, so, now that you know anything and everything you could ever possibly want to know about spaghetti squash, how about making some and eating it!?
Here is what you need:
1 small spaghetti squash
1 pound 99% lean ground turkey
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 onion, chopped
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Dash of crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 cup reduced-fat shredded mozzarella cheese
Here is what you do:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Pierce the skin of the squash in several places with a paring knife.
Place the squash on a baking sheet or a large stone and bake it for 60 minutes.
Meanwhile, spray stockpot or large saucepan with cooking spray and set over medium heat on the stove. Season ground turkey with salt and pepper and cook with onion in the pan 3-4 minutes, breaking up the meat as it cooks.
Add in spinach, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, parsley, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and crushed red pepper flakes. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30-45 minutes.
After the initial baking cycle with the spaghetti squash, take it out of the oven and cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds.
Spray the inside flesh with cooking spray, place it back on the baking sheet flesh face down, and bake it for 20-30 more minutes, or until the “noodles” separate effortlessly. Use a fork to release strands.
Serve 2/3 cup spaghetti squash with 1 cup ragu and top each serving with 2 tablespoons cheese.
Makes 6 servings.
One serving is 2/3 cup spaghetti squash, 1 cup ragu and 2 tablespoons mozzarella cheese.
One serving is 3 WW FreeStyle Smart Points.
Spaghetti Squash with Tomato Spinach Ragu
- 1 medium spaghetti squash
- 1 pound 99% lean ground turkey
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- 1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
- 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 6 ounce can tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- Dash of crushed red pepper flakes
- 3/4 cup reduced-fat shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Pierce the skin of the squash in several places with a paring knife. Place the squash on a baking sheet or a large stone and I bake it for 60 minutes.
- Meanwhile, spray stockpot or large saucepan with cooking spray and set over medium heat on the stove. Season ground turkey with salt and pepper and cook with onion in the pan 3-4 minutes, breaking up the meat as it cooks.
- Add in spinach, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, parsley, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and crushed red pepper flakes. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30-45 minutes.
- After the initial baking cycle with the spaghetti squash, take it out of the oven and cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds.
- Spray the inside flesh with cooking spray, place it back on the baking sheet flesh face down, and bake it for 20-30 more minutes, or until the "noodles" separate effortlessly. Use a fork to release strands.
- Serve 2/3 cup spaghetti squash with 1 cup ragu and top each serving with 2 tablespoons cheese.
*SmartPoints® calculated by Meal Planning Mommies; Not endorsed by Weight Watchers International, Inc. All recipe ingredients except optional items included in determining nutritional estimates. SmartPoints® values calculated without Weight Watchers Zero Points fruits and vegetables using the WW Recipe Builder.