~ This fantastic recipe for Microwave Spaghetti Squash is easy enough for weeknights, but impressive enough for Thanksgiving dinner and holiday suppers! With a great microwave technique that cuts down on cooking time, and only 5 simple ingredients (plus those freebies, salt and pepper), this easy side dish recipe is a total snap to pull together – yet surprisingly, satisfyingly delicious! ~
This Recipe Is: • Ready in 30 Minutes or Less • Vegetarian • Gluten Free • Paleo •
Decadently rich browned butter, plus crunchy, toasted walnuts and fragrant sage … so amazing. The perfect additions to mounds of shredded, slightly sweet spaghetti squash.
This is definitely one of those my-family-is-totally-surprised-how-much-they-love-it recipes. They made happy, munching sounds of surprise and delight from the very first time they tried it!
But I’ll bet you have a question, right off the bat. I’ll bet it’s …
Why Would You Microwave Spaghetti Squash???
I hear ya! When it comes to fresh veggies, I’m normally a roasting kinda gal, myself. All the wonderful transformations that happen in the oven as vegetables caramelize … mmmmmm … magical.
But here’s the thing. I really think that the magic happens best with foods like cubed red potatoes, broccoli florets, chunks of peppers, and beautifully slender green beans and asparagus. Why? What do they all have in common? Lots and lots of exterior surface area that can develop deeply caramelized spots and maybe even a bit of crispness here and there.
With spaghetti squash, you lose out on a lot of that, and once you’ve combined it with a flavorful sauce or toppings (like with today’s recipe or with our Parmesan Spaghetti Squash with Italian Sausage), you’re not really cashing in on all that much great flavor or texture, considering all the time it took in the oven to get that squash cooked.
Which brings us to the really big reason to microwave spaghetti squash:
Microwaving is simply faster. It takes my regular oven almost 20 minutes to get up to roasting temp, and then I’d need another 30-60 minutes for the actual roasting (depending on the size of the spaghetti squash and what temperature I chose).
Here’s what I do:
I just cut the spaghetti squash in half long-ways and scrape out the seeds (channeling my inner kid and pretending I’m cleaning out a jack-o-lantern). Then, I brush the flesh of each half with a tiny bit of olive oil, and sprinkle on some pepper and coarse salt. (Just like in the pic below.)
Then I flip those babies over, so the skin is facing up, and getting ’em cooking – in no time flat!
What’s awesome here is that my technique for making Microwave Spaghetti Squash is a little different from others you may’ve seen that add water to the baking dish to steam the squash. My technique actually does develop some of those pretty, toasty-looking spots you’d get from oven-roasting. In a fraction of the time!
Look how great it turns out (ahem … just a few minutes later … sorry, oven!):
Plus, you don’t have to heat up that big oven, or use valuable oven real estate on days like Thanksgiving (when your oven is already overloaded and nearing a nervous breakdown).
After cooking, the squash easily shreds into spaghetti-like strands. A totally “wow, that’s soooooo cool” project for the kids, if you’re keen on handing out kitchen chores they can’t really mess up!
If you’re still hankering for the oven method (and have that kind of time), I certainly won’t stop you, since oven-roasting spaghetti squash works brilliantly, too. You can check out a couple of methods HERE and HERE.
But really … microwaving spaghetti squash. At THK, you know we’re all about little ways of saving you time, and this is one shortcut I feel just fine taking!
So you’re on board now, right? Ok! Moving on …
Let’s talk about one of the other questions I sometimes see about spaghetti squash:
What Do I Do If I Have Watery Spaghetti Squash?
I’ve seen lots of answers to this question, from using a salad spinner … to putting it in cheese cloth and wringing it out. They probably all work fine, but I’ve got a couple of other, simpler ideas that I think will help.
- Just don’t overcook your spaghetti squash. I’m not exactly a squash-ologist, and maybe there actually are some squashes that are inherently more watery than others, but I think one of the main culprits in watery squash situations actually seems to be overcooking. I don’t have this problem very often, and it’s pretty easy to fix. First off, just try to avoid overcooking altogether. You don’t have to cook spaghetti squash into a wilted, lifeless puddle – go for something more along the lines of al dente pasta, where that squash still has a bit of spring in its step (and it hasn’t sadly leached all its water as you cooked it to death). The exact amount of time you need to perfectly microwave spaghetti squash will vary, depending on how powerful your own microwave is, and also on exactly how large each squash is (since very few clock in at a precisely perfect 3 pounds, and sometimes you’re at the mercy of the teeny-tiny squash or the ay-caramba-giant ones your store happens to have for sale).
- But, if you get side-tracked and forget to check how your squash is doing, and despite all your best efforts, it’s a bit overcooked and watery … don’t despair! I find that the easiest thing to do is simply to scoop the strands of spaghetti squash from the shell and let it all sit in a colander for a few minutes to drain before you toss it with your sauce. Failing that, you can simply serve it with a slotted spoon, to leave extra water (but, unfortunately, possibly also some of the tasty sauce) behind on the serving platter.
How to Toast the Walnuts
There are several methods for toasting nuts. In fact, you can even use your microwave! But, since we’ve already got a squash in there, today we’re using my go-to method, which is a quick toss in a skillet. (If you’re curious about the microwave method, you can read more HERE.)
The key is to watch your walnuts closely and stir them frequently. Your first hint that they’re perfectly toasted will be a fabulous, nutty smell. That’s the best time to pull them from the heat. If you’re really careful, you can let them go just a little longer, to get a bit more deeply toasted, so some brown spots begin to develop, but you’ve got to be super-careful not to let them burn at that point. It’s a short stroll from perfectly toasted to disappointingly burned, so if you’re feeling daring and going for that deep-dark savage tan on your walnuts, watch them like a hawk!
How to Make Browned Butter
We get into a bit more detail on exactly how to make browned butter in our post on Roasted Green Beans with Balsamic-Browned Butter, so I’ll give you the shorthand version here. Basically, you melt butter and then continue cooking it for a few minutes to let it gently brown (you know … thus, the name). As it browns, the butter develops an alluringly nutty aroma and a gorgeously toasted color (lots of toastiness goin’ on here today!).
The whole transformation happens pretty quickly (which is just how we like things … quick and easy!):
As far as flavor’s concerned, browned butter is basically liquid gold. And from a healthy eating perspective, the great thing is that just a little browned butter goes a long, long way. It’s like butter got all grown up … and maybe took a bunch of illegal steroids … and turned into something hundreds of times more crazy-good than its original self. Liquid gold. Not kidding … try it and see!
For this particular Microwave Spaghetti Squash recipe, we have you add minced fresh sage in the last minute or so of cooking (the last photo in the series above), just as your butter begins to brown. The scent of sage mingles with the wafting smells of browned butter in something that’s nearly indescribably fabulous.
You need this in your life. You really do.
Serving This Recipe as Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
Sure, this Microwave Spaghetti Squash recipe looks stunning in a regular-old serving dish. But … if you want to really wow the hungry masses (or just your easily impressed kiddos), try serving the squash back in its “shell” – a perfectly sized, perfectly beautiful serving bowl (that you won’t even have to wash later)!
The entire finished recipe should fit nicely in one of the half “shells.” Just be a little careful as you’re using your fork to create the spaghetti shreds, to be sure that at least one of the two shells doesn’t break apart before you can create this showstopper side dish presentation! And if you’ve pawned the scraping task off on your kids … well, just ask them to be gentle in their gleeful shredding!
Ready to get started? Just a handful of ingredients is all you’ll need …
And remember, since we’re microwaving spaghetti squash here (because you’re still totally on board with trying that, right?!?!), we’re saving a lot of time, too!
Truly everything a simple side dish should be – so easy, but also surprisingly, amazingly delicious!
You’ll love serving it for family meals, but it’ll quickly become a tried-and-true standby for the holidays, too – perfect for Thanksgiving Dinner this week, or for Christmas buffets.
Now go out and find yourself a squash, and give this one a try!
And have a deliciously happy, healthy Thanksgiving, friends!
- 1 3-pound spaghetti squash
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
- 2 tablespoons butter (sweet, salted)
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
- With a large, sharp knife, carefully split squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds and membranes with a spoon. Brush the flesh of each squash half evenly with ½ teaspoon olive oil, then sprinkle each half with ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/16 teaspoon of black pepper.
- Place squash, skin side up, in a 9x13 baking dish. Microwave on full power for 15-20 minutes, until the tops give slightly under pressure when gently pressed (checking for doneness every couple of minutes at the end of cooking time.) Let sit about 10 minutes until cool enough to handle (or handle with oven mitts), and then use a fork to shred squash into a large serving bowl. (If your squash is a bit overcooked and a little watery, you can place it in a colander for a few minutes to drain before using a slotted spoon to transfer it to the bowl. Read further tips on this in the full recipe post.)
- Meanwhile, while squash is cooking, toast walnuts in a small skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Remove from heat as soon as the walnuts smell fragrant or begin to lightly brown. Set walnuts aside and carefully wipe out skillet.
- In the same skillet, over medium-low heat, melt butter and cook, gently swirling the pan or stirring occasionally, until the butter has foamed and begun to turn a light golden-brown. (This will take about 3-4 minutes, varying greatly depending on how powerful your burners are.) Add the sage and continue browning the butter a little further, about 1 minute, just until the butter has turned a richer golden-brown with little specks of milk solids in the bottom of the pan. Remove the butter from the heat and stir in remaining ¾ teaspoon salt and ⅛ teaspoon black pepper.
- Add toasted walnuts and browned butter sauce to spaghetti squash and stir gently to thoroughly combine. Serve immediately from the bowl, or (if you'd like to present this as a stuffed spaghetti squash), by piling the squash mixture back into one of the spaghetti squash "shells."
Browning butter, toasting walnuts, and dealing with watery spaghetti squash: Be sure to read our tips and recommendations in the post and look through the step-by-step photos for suggestions on all these steps of the recipe.