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How to Cook Spaghetti Squash and Gluten-Free Pasta Sauces

My gluten-free dry pasta of choice is Tinkyada (I really cannot recommend it enough).  My boys really like the spinach pasta because they think it looks like worms.  Add marinara to the picture and I am sure you can imagine how interesting my dinner table can get! ;-)

Over the past several months, I have been taking a new approach to how we eat.  While we still eat prepackaged gluten-free products, it is becoming more of a treat (like GF cookies, etc.), or because we need something fast (or mom is not in the mood to cook!).  Eating a naturally gluten-free diet (ie: fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, etc.) is not only much less expensive, but it is also healthier.

While I have been strictly gluten-free for the past two years, I have never felt as good as I have over the past 6 months or so, since changing our eating habits even more (beyond just being gluten-free).  Any “diet” is what you make of it and simply changing out gluten-containing processed foods for gluten-free processed foods, does not necessarily make one’s diet “healthier” (outside of healing someone with gluten-sensitivity).  Just because products like mac and cheese, chips, and/or hot dogs are labeled gluten-free, doesn’t exactly make them a healthy choice. ;-)  We still enjoy those types of products, don’t get me wrong, we just don’t eat them everyday anymore.

One thing I have been doing, is using less dry pasta and more spaghetti squash.  I love spaghetti squash and so do my boys, they especially enjoy “making the noodles.”  I wanted to do a post on spaghetti squash for a couple of reasons, 1) I have some cool nutritional facts to share with you and 2) I have been collecting a pile of recipes that I am eager to try and I would like to share those with you as well.

Some nutritional highlights:

Spaghetti Squash is a winter squash that belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family.  Winter Squashes are relatives of the cucumber and melon!

According to Livestrong.com (emphasis added):

The only fat you usually find in vegetables is the butter you put on them before you eat them.

Spaghetti squash, however, contains both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that omega-3 fatty acids are shown to help prevent heart disease and cancer, as well as reduce inflammation that can cause arthritis*.

Omega-6 fatty acids work with the omega-3s to promote proper brain function, and both fatty acids are essential to good health.

Spaghetti squash does not contain a wide variety of vitamins, but the few that it does contain are important for proper cellular function. A report on spaghetti squash from “Nutrition Data,” a website that relays nutrition information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, shows that spaghetti squash contains vitamin A, vitamin C and several of the B vitamins, including B6, B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid) and B9 (folate.)

Vitamins A and C are antioxidant vitamins, which means they protect the body’s cells from damage caused by outside stimuli, such as stress and toxic medications. The B vitamins are all necessary to convert carbohydrates into energy, as well as to maintain proper cellular function.

Spaghetti squash contains numerous minerals that are essential to body functions. Calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, sodium, manganese, selenium and zinc all play a different role in cellular function.

*For more reading on Arthritis and Celiac Disease, Scott Adams of Celiac.com wrote a great article on this subject.  Another article, written by one of my personal favorites, Dr. Ron Hoggan, is titled “Rheumatoid Arthritis, Molecular Mimicry and Diet as a Possible Therapy.”

If you or someone you know suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis, I would highly recommend getting screened for celiac disease.

There is an aspect to spaghetti squash that I particularly like, especially as someone living with celiac disease.  Spaghetti squash is highly portable and if I am eating at a friend’s house, etc., the squash “packaging” adds a level of protection against cross-contamination, because the flesh never needs to come into contact with a contaminated colander! :-D

Cooking Spaghetti Squash is really easy and there are several ways you can do it.  Personally, I use a microwave, but an oven also works, it just takes longer.

  • I do not cut my squash first, I cook it whole.
  • If you use this method, be sure to poke several holes in it first to allow the steam to escape.
  • I like to place the squash on a plate to collect any liquid that might escape.
  • Depending on the size of the squash and the wattage of your microwave, cook at full power for about 20 minutes. The squash will be soft when it is ready.
  • If the squash is not done after 20 minutes, cook an additional 3 – 4 minutes at a time.
  • Once it is done, allow the squash to cool for 10 minutes or so before cutting it open, it will be really hot!
  • Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds with a spoon then use a fork to gently scoop out the flesh, into strands.
  • You can eat it right out of nature’s bowl or transfer to a dish and top with your favorite sauce!

Links to a couple more methods of cooking a spaghetti squash:

Cooking Squash Whole – Oven Method (there is a photo tutorial on this link)

Cutting Squash in Half – Oven Method

The spaghetti squash you see in the photo above is my easy, cheater’s meal, as I used a store-bought jarred sauce (I make this quite often for a quick and easy lunch).  I am actively seeking a great homemade sauce recipe for all of the tomatoes in my garden come July and August.  My hope is to make large batches of sauce and preserve it for the fall and winter.  I will have the benefit of knowing exactly what is in the sauce and I am sure it will be much less expensive; many sauces can cost over $5.00 a jar!  I have overcome the fear of my pressure cooker and I now use it ALL THE TIME (talk about healthy ‘fast food’!).  Next, I need a pressure canner but they still look intimidating, LOL! ;-)

My store-bought pasta sauces of choice are by Classico, and Mezzetta (see below for Gluten-Free Info on Mezetta products) because both are marked gluten-free on the jar.  While I have yet to encounter a jarred sauce that contains obvious gluten, many do not state they are gluten-free on the label.  You will need to contact the company and ask a representative about the gluten-free status.

There was a really good piece in the latest issue of Gluten-Free Living magazine, in the “On Your Plate” section on page 54.  A reader asked “Can a Product truly be gluten-free if it is made in a factory that also produces wheat products?”  The long and short of it, as of right now, we in the gluten-free community need to decide what food processing factors are important to us when we purchase gluten-free products. 

Amy Ratner, Associate Editor of Gluten-Free Living, highlighted the following as examples of good questions we all need to consider (and ask company representatives when inquiring about the gluten-free status of products):

  • Is said product made in a dedicated plant?
  • Does the company test for gluten in their final products?  If they do, are the products tested in-house or by an outside laboratory?
  • Does the manufacturer verify that all ingredients (from outside sources) are gluten-free?
  • Is said product manufactured on a dedicated line?
  • Does the manufacturer follow “safe manufacturing practices?” (ie: thorough cleaning of equipment between runs).

The bottom line?  We all have to accept personal responsibility for our health by making the safest choices possible when buying prepackaged products.  I used to be much more liberal in the criteria I used for making my choices.  Basically, if a product did not contain any gluten ingredients, I deemed it “safe enough” (it’s been a long, slow journey for me!).  I have seriously modified my approach and am buying more and more products that are Certified Gluten-Free (or at the very least come from a company that is forthcoming about their products).

The following links are for some delicious looking spaghetti squash recipes that I recommend checking out!

New Mexican Spaghetti Squash by Karina Allrich, (the Gluten Free Goddess)

Spaghetti Squash: Gluten Free Pasta by Mike Eberhart of Gluten Free Blog

One Dish Meal: Spaghetti Squash Casserole by Sally Parrott Ashbrook of Aprovechar

Saffron Tomato Sauce with Chicken and Spaghetti Sauce by Amy Green of Simply Sugar and Gluten Free

Spaghetti Squash Un-Lasagna Recipe by Sea of Book of Yum

*I received an email from Mezzetta (dated 6/23/2010) regarding the gluten-free status of their products:

Dear Ms. Kelly:

Thank you for your email regarding our Mezzetta Brand products.  You will be happy to know that the majority of our products, with the exception of our Kona Coast Pancake Mixes and our Kona Coast Honey Mustard, are gluten free.  As we begin to reprint our labels, we will be noting on them that they are gluten free.  We will be sending coupons to you for your enjoyment.

G.L. Mezzetta Inc is a fourth generation family owned business since 1935. We offer approximately 100 different Mezzetta brand products including pickled peppers and vegetables, imported specialty olives and onions, hot sauces, salsa and other specialty items. Most of our peppers are grown in California.  They arrive fresh from the farms to be processed in our packing plant.

Our Napa Valley Bistro line of pasta sauces and marinated olives incorporates local Napa Valley wines to add a gourmet flavor.  Our Kona Coast line of marinade and teriyaki brings that Island Style of international fusion cuisines.

Once again, thank you for your email. We hope that you continue to purchase and enjoy Mezzetta Brand products.

Sincerely,

Esther Roberts
Consumer Correspondence
105 Mezzetta Ct, American Canyon, CA  94503
800-941-7044 x104
www.mezzetta.com

Do you have a favorite way of eating spaghetti squash? :-D

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Comments

  1. I love using spaghetti squash as a "pasta" alternative! It's so delish and of course naturally GF! Yum!! Lovely post!

  2. Anna says:

    I've also been wondering about canned tomatoes and paste as I like to make my own sauce. It really is a mine field!

  3. Casey says:

    I've never even HEARD of spaghetti squash so no, I don't have a favorite way but I intend on trying it.

    Have you tried the Thai Kitchen rice noodles? In my opinion, those are the closest I've found to real pasta. The added benefit is that they're in the ethnic aisle and are regularly priced vs crazy gluten free pricing.

  4. I'm learning that it is very easy to switch from a wheat based diet to a rice and cornstarch based diet. I'm not sure I've ever made spaghetti squash for my kids. I better get to it!

    I do a lot of canning and I don't have a pressure canner. We use a huge pot and a burner that attaches to the propane tank. But I've never canned tomato sauce, just salsa and ketchup.

  5. Stephanie says:

    I love my spaghetti squash with Bertolli portobello & merlot sauce! Sometimes I'll throw in some meatballs too. Yum! Thanks for the awesome nutritional info!

  6. Cara says:

    I love spaghetti squash, especially with refried beans! :)

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