Food experiment: Spaghetti squash carbonara

It’s been almost a week since Thanksgiving and I somehow still have leftovers. I don’t get it, it’s insane. After eating turkey for a few days straight, I needed a break. But as I left the gym earlier this evening, I had no desire to get into the car, drive, leave the car, buy something, get into the car again, and drive home. No no, that was too many steps in too cold of weather. My California body is still very unprepared for 31F evenings.

That meant leftovers! But I couldn’t handle any more turkey. Not tonight! As I drove home, I contemplated stopping by the store to grab some veggies, but then I remember I had half a gourd of spaghetti squash left that I hadn’t touched in about a week and a half. Maybe I could do something with that…?

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If you’re unfamiliar with spaghetti squash, let me tell about this intriguing vegetable. Spaghetti squash is a yellow winter squash that is about the size of your butternut squash. As its name describes, spaghetti squash, when cooked comes out in strands that can be scraped out of the gourd once cooked. The yellow strands of sweet squash is very reminiscent of Italian spaghetti. It’s become very popular to use a carb substitute for dieters due to its low caloric value compared to carby pasta. Personally, nothing replaces carbs for me, but I heard about it on some cooking show so I thought it’d be fun to try out. Spaghetti squash is probably one of the easiest things to cook, but sometimes a bit difficult to use in application. At least for me, I haven’t been able to make anything particularly interesting with spaghetti squash.

img_3950-1Then it hit me–spaghetti squash carbonara. That could be a thing, right? If people use it as a spaghetti substitute, why not for carbonara? It sounded like it would be a brilliant thing because spaghetti alla carbonara is normally a very rich dish–pasta, eggs, parmesan cheese, pancetta/bacon, garlic, and salt & pepper. Spaghetti squash and marinara has always been boring to me since it’s just squash and some sauce (albeit delicious sauce). In carbonara, perhaps the spaghetti squash could be a lighter spin on the dish by balancing out some of the richness. Also, spaghetti squash could give an interesting texture to the dish as well since it’s not a soft pasta, but also not too crunchy since the strands are relatively thin.

So how’d it turn out? Not too shabby. In fact, I would even say it’s something I’d make again, which is why I’m going to share this experimental recipe with you.

Notes about this recipe!

Unlike pasta, spaghetti squash gets a little watery once cooked. My dish turned out a little more watery than I wanted because I didn’t saute the squash for too long before mixing in the sauce. If yours does start to produce some water, don’t panic! It’s perfectly edible and it REALLY bothers you, you can put your pan back on the heat for a couple seconds. It might scramble your egg mixture bit, but it’ll be less watery.

From recipes I’ve looked at before, I cook my spaghetti squash WAY less. Personally, I don’t like it when the squash is cooked too long and the strands get a little clumpy, so I think 12-15 minutes to cook squash is too long. That being said, it also depends on the power of your microwave. Mine is pretty strong, so the time it takes to cook in mine might be different than yours. The key thing to remember is if it’s easily scraped out, your squash is good to go!

When I mention parmesan cheese, I’m using the block of cheese, not the stuff in a bottle. I love Kraft’s parmesan in a bottle for pizza and cheese toast (childhood favorite!) but please don’t use that in this. You need the block of cheese because it’ll provide that melty texture you need for this. Pre-grated works fine too, but the best thing for this recipe is if you grate the cheese yourself with a microplane. It’ll give you a better melt and will help coat the “pasta” better.

Spaghetti Squash Carbonara

  • Servings: 1
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups of spaghetti squash (a little less than 1/2 a squash)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (microplaned is best)
  • 2 slices of thick cut bacon, diced (I just used bacon ends from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • dash of pepper

Directions

  1. If you have a whole spaghetti squash, cut it in half length wise and store one half. With the other half, use a spoon and scrape out the pulp and seeds. Once it’s all cleaned out, place the squash on a microwave safe shallow plate. Pour in about 3-4 tbsp water at the bottom of your shallow plate. This water will help steam and cook your spaghetti squash.
  2. Microwave the squash for 7 minutes (or what it says on the sticker of your squash). After it’s done, let it sit for at least 5 minutes to cool down a little.
  3. Then check on your squash. You’ll know it’s ready when it’s easy to scrape the squash out with a fork. Be careful you take it out of the microwave–it’s hot!
  4. If your squash is ready, scrape away! You should be able to get most of the flesh and be left with a light outer skin. Toss the skin and set aside the squash.
  5. Grate about 1/2 a cup of parmesan cheese. Set aside.
  6. Beat 1 large egg, then add the cheese. Beat a little more to combine the two, then set aside.
  7. Mince a clove of garlic. Set aside.
  8. Dice up your 2 slices of bacon. Set aside.
  9. Heat up a frying pan on medium high heat. Once the pan is warm enough, add the bacon and render the fat out. You’ll know it’s about ready when the bacon changes to that caramelized reddish brown color.
  10. Once bacon is just about rendered, add the garlic and give it a stir. Fry for about 1-2 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant.
  11. Add your 1.5 cups of spaghetti squash and stir to incorporate the bacon and garlic into the squash. Add the salt and mix. Cook for 4 minutes.
  12. Turn off the heat and remove the pan from the stove. Add your egg-cheese mixture onto your “pasta” and toss the squash to mix the sauce in evenly. The sauce will seem too thick at first but it’ll start to thin out a bit as you continue to mix. If it gets too watery, feel free to place it on the stove for a couple seconds again to cook the sauce a little (make sure you keep tossing if you’re doing this). Just FYI, it probably will scramble since it is an egg mixture.
  13. Once your squash is completely covered and well-mixed, put your squash on a plate to serve. Top with more parmesan cheese if desired and a sprinkle of black pepper. Enjoy!

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Ta-da! Recipe probably could use some tweaking to solve the watery squash problem but taste-wise, it’s pretty good. If you try it out, lemme know what you think.

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