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Hey, you. Yeah, you: the humble spaghetti squash cowering in the shadows over there on the kitchen counter. Don’t be shy.
Sure, the bottom shelf of my tiny pantry may already be filled with one too many open packages of pasta, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook tonight. You’re stepping in once again as my number one noodle substitute, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Look, we both know that a roasted vegetable can only go so far when it’s parading around as pasta, but if anyone can do it (and do it well), it’s spaghetti squash. In several recent endeavors with the globular vegetable, including this pesto-laced one, I discovered a very important secret:
Though what you do with the squash strands once they’re roasted and forked out of their shell is obviously significant, it’s the cooking process that truly makes or breaks whatever recipe you use them in.
Overcook them or use a temperature that’s too low, and your finished result will be semi-steamed squash flesh that’s somewhat… mushy.
You may get a few lucky strands that you’re able to swirl onto a fork from the thicker portions of the squash, but you’d get better use out of the thing if it’s over– or under-done by turning it into a hat and scaring the pizza guy.
If you do achieve the perfect roast – and you can, I believe in you! – what you end up with are tender, slightly crisp, mildly sweet threads that stand in a category all their own.
Flavor-wise, no one ever said that spaghetti squash was related (or truly comparable) to flour-based pasta, and I’m okay with that.
To be honest, when I’m working with spaghetti squash, I’m not hoping for a food coma. I’m not looking for a dish that’s super hearty or pants popping. I’m craving something boldly flavorful, yet somewhat refreshing at the same time.
Simple, satisfying, and not packed with wheat-based carbs or animal protein? Count me in. If you’re fully dairy-free, you can skip the feta, but as for me – well, cheese is my friend.
Speaking of the F-word, this recipe truly rekindled my love of sun-dried tomatoes. There was a point in time (or maybe just an episode of Friends?) where it seemed like chefs were slinging the tart, dehydrated slivers on everything.
You couldn’t stumble upon a pizza or pasta dish without seeing them. And just like that, as a result, I inadvertently began avoiding them altogether. Thanks a lot, NBC.
This dish brought them back into my life and my taste buds couldn’t have been happier to be reunited with the sweet, chewy morsels.
Savory notes of red onion and garlic play off of the potent tomatoes, while briny feta brings a bang of sharpness. I go heavy-handed on the fresh basil as its bright, peppery perfume fills every bite with a reminder of summer, and crushed red pepper flakes add a fiery spark.
Before you know it, your belly is full and your mouth has just tumbled around so many intense flavors that you’ll forget this dish was entirely made up of veggies. Well, that and some cheese.
You’ve gotta love a good plant-based plot twist, especially one inspired by a ‘90s sitcom.Print
Need a light veggie dish for dinner that’s simple yet satisfying? Make spaghetti squash tangled with tangy sun-dried tomatoes and feta.
- 1 large spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded (about 4 pounds)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for finishing
- 3/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided, plus more to taste
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup sun-dried tomato strips preserved in oil
- 1/4 cup packed fresh basil, plus more for garnish
- 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Drizzle the interior of the squash with 2 tablespoons oil. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
- Place the squash halves cut side down on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until fork tender, about 25-30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the remaining olive oil. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with the remaining salt and black pepper.
- Add the sun-dried tomatoes, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the tomatoes are heated through. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
- Using a fork, shred the flesh of the squash into the bowl with the sun-dried tomato mixture. Gently tear in the basil leaves and add the feta, and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and divide among bowls or plates.
- Garnish each finished portion with a drizzle of olive oil, a few small whole basil leaves, and red pepper flakes to taste. Serve immediately.
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 35 minutes
- Category: Vegetarian
- Method: Baking/Stovetop
- Cuisine: Dinner
Keywords: spaghetti squash, sun-dried tomatoes, feta, basil, red onion, garlic
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep the Squash
Preheat the oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Drizzle the interior of the squash with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and season the interior with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
Place the squash halves cut side down on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until fork tender, for about 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Roasting the squash for too long or at too low of a temperature will result in mushy flesh that doesn’t really replicate pasta strands. You want the final texture to be similar to thin, stringy, al dente pasta. Check out our tips for understanding your oven to make sure you’re getting the most out of it.
Step 2 – Prep and Saute the Remaining Ingredients
Thinly slice the red onions and mince the garlic.
In a large skillet over medium heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and saute until translucent, for about 5 minutes. Season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
Add the sun-dried tomatoes, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until they are heated through.
You can use dehydrated sun-dried tomatoes, but I prefer the kind that are either marinated or packed in oil, because they have more flavor, a satisfying texture, and they don’t need to be reconstituted before you use them.
Try these, which are available on Amazon.
You can also finish this dish with some of the jar’s reserved oil if you like, instead of using plain olive oil.
Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, until it’s fragrant but not browned. Transfer the mixture to a large serving bowl.
Step 3 – Shred the Squash
Using a fork, shred the flesh of the squash by scraping it from the outside and working your way in, fluffing the strands as you go. You can use the flesh all the way down to the skin.
Place the strands in the bowl with the sun-dried tomato mixture.
Step 4 – Toss and Serve
Gently tear or roughly chop the basil leaves, making sure to reserve some of the smaller whole leaves for garnish.
Add the basil and feta to the bowl with the squash, and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and divide among bowls or plates.
Garnish each finished portion with a drizzle of olive oil, a few basil leaves, and red pepper flakes. Serve immediately.
A Memorable Mouthful
Want to take this recipe to the next level? Toss in a few leafy handfuls of baby spinach to bulk things up a bit, or go in the non-Meatless Monday recipe direction by roasting some bone-in chicken thighs to go on top.
These bad boys are loaded with lemon and would pair beautifully with the dish’s bright sprinkles of feta.
If for some reason you can’t get your hands on sun-dried tomatoes, throw some chopped Romas under the broiler with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar to coax out their sweetness.
Pull them out of the oven when they’re perfectly blistered. You won’t get the same tart tongue punch, but the acidity will add complexity to each bite.
In search of more light meals where loud, flavorful veggies stand front and center? Give these meatless recipes a go next:
- Garlic Ginger Vegetarian Tacos with Sweet and Spicy Cabbage Slaw
- Zucchini Mushroom Pepper “Boats” with Mozzarella
- Vegetarian White Bean Chili with Butternut Squash
What other ingredients do you like twirling alongside succulent spaghetti squash? Share your tasty ideas in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Jennifer Swartvagher on May 26, 2015. Last updated on November 1, 2021.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”