If there was an awards ceremony for vegetables, spaghetti squash might just win the most underrated category. It’s one of those vegetables that looks harder to cook than it actually is, so I think cooks bypass the squash bin at the grocery store, heading instead for sweet potatoes. The truth is cutting it open is the most difficult part of cooking the it (any winter squash, really, and among the winter squashes, it’s one of the easiest to cut, you just need a big chef’s knife).
After cutting the squash in half and scooping out the seeds, place the squash cut side down on a lined baking sheet. Pour in about 1/4 of water to keep it from burning and roast in a 350 degree oven for roughly 30 minutes. While the squash is roasting, you can whip up a few other ingredients and in the end, you’ll have a vegetarian spaghetti with a simple marinara sauce, and get a good dose of greens, too, in about 45 minutes, or less.
My marinara sauce is embarrassingly simple. Dice half a large onion (any color, I used red because that’s what I had) and saute it in a healthy splash of olive oil. Once it’s tender, about 5 minutes, stir in minced garlic (as much as you like). As soon as the garlic smells wonderful, a minute or two, pour in 1/4 cup of white wine. Cook until the wine is almost reduced, and then add a can of diced tomatoes with the juice (I like Muir Glen organic tomatoes, and if fire-roasted, all the better). Stir in a generous teaspoon of dried Italian herbs and then simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes.
While the sauce bubbles, have some wine and toast some pine nuts. I like an Oregon or Californian Pinot Gris with this dish. Or, on second thought, toast the nuts first, and then have wine. You have to watch them or they’ll burn. Throw a handful of nuts in a dry skillet and toast over medium heat until browned, tossing frequently. It’ll take about 5 minutes. Once the nuts are done, saute up some Swiss chard.
I cut chard from the stems and then roughly chop the leaves before soaking them in a salad spinner to remove any dirt. Spin them dry and saute with a generous splash of olive oil in a skillet, maybe add a little garlic, salt and pepper. After the leaves are wilted, cover the skillet and turn the heat to low. It should take about 10 minutes to turn them into soft, tender greens. While the greens are steaming to tenderness, you can scrape the spaghetti squash into lovely yellow strands with a fork, and season with salt and pepper. Place a mound of squash in a pasta bowl and top with the marinara sauce, pine nuts and a sprinkling of Parmesan. Scatter the greens around the squash and now, in less than 45 minutes, you have a healthy, delicious, vegetarian spaghetti dish.