If you’re searching for a wholesome, planet-friendly meal that’ll tantalize your taste buds while leaving a minimal carbon footprint, look no further. In today’s culinary adventure, we’re diving headfirst into the world of spaghetti squash and lentils – a dynamic duo that promises both flavor and sustainability. Join me as I walk you through the intricacies of this veggie-centric masterpiece. From demystifying how to cut spaghetti squash to unveiling the secrets of perfectly cooked lentils, to figuring out what to pair with spaghetti squash, this article is your passport to a nutritious, eco-conscious dining experience that’s as delicious as it is responsible. Make sure you have your apron, a sharp knife, and it’s time to get cooking!
Spaghetti Squash Basics
Spaghetti Squash: The Veggie Pasta Alternative
There’s more to spaghetti squash than meets the eye. The yellow gourd serves as a fantastic substitute for traditional pasta but is also packed with nutrition. With its long, yellow spaghetti-like strands, the fleshy squash is a light option as the star of your plate. While it’s not pasta, it makes a great substitute because it’s not as heavy to digest, and has a lower carbohydrate impact on your macros, and for those that need it, it’s gluten-free. If you’ve never had spaghetti squash, it’s a perfect substitute for spaghetti because the texture is slightly firm yet tender and has a mild flavor profile. While in this recipe, we’re showing spaghetti squash and lentils, the squash complements a wide range of sauces and ingredients such as lentil bolognese, paired with a cheese sauce, or even a stuffed spaghetti squash recipe.
How to Cook Spaghetti Squash
There are a few methods to prepare spaghetti squash, depending on how you prefer to cook. Roasting is a popular choice as it releases the natural sugars in the squash, intensifying its flavors and creating a slightly earthy aroma. Some people have also roasted their spaghetti squash in the air fryer, which may take less time considering the smaller space. If you’re looking to retain more of the starchy flavor, steaming is a good alternative. It ensures that the strands remain firm and separate, ready to soak up your chosen flavors. Our favorite method is to cut the squash in half and then roast it. But how you prepare it will ultimately determine its flavor.
How to cut spaghetti squash
To the unfamiliar, it can be a little intimidating to prepare spaghetti squash, especially if you don’t know how to cut it. Many grocery stores offer to prepare your spaghetti squash or zoodles for you, but they often come in plastic packaging. Since recycling rates are abysmal, reduce the waste by preparing it yourself. The best way to cut a spaghetti squash is with a very sharp knife. Start by finding the flattest side of your squash and place the flat side down on the cutting board. Take a large, sharp knife and cut long ways through the middle. Then turn the squash the other way, and finish the cut to the other side. We’ve included a video below that shows you how we cut it.
From here, you can cover your squash with a little olive oil and seasonings and roast it in the oven on a rimmed baking sheet. Our exact instructions and seasonings are in the recipe below. Once fork tender in the oven, remove the spaghetti squash from the oven and allow it to cool. Once cool to the touch, hold the spaghetti squash long ways and shred it with a fork. Be sure to watch the video for the full recipe and ideas on how to prepare!
What to Pair With Spaghetti Squash:
The possibilities are endless when it comes to serving spaghetti squash. You can go the classic route and top it with a rich marinara sauce for a comforting meal. Alternatively, you can elevate your culinary game by using spaghetti squash as a vehicle for various toppings. Think beans, lentils, a creamy sauce like our vegan cauliflower alfredo sauce, or your favorite mushroom and cauliflower bolognese.
Lentils Basics: The Protein-Packed Powerhouse
Lentils are small but mighty! A nutritional powerhouse, lentils deserve a prominent place in your diet. These small legumes are bursting with benefits, making them a go-to option for vegetarians and vegans. One of their notable qualities is their high protein content, providing you with a plant-based source of this essential nutrient. Alongside protein, lentils are also rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making them a fantastic addition to any well-rounded meal plan.
Lentils and Sustainability
Not only are they healthy for you, but lentils are also beneficial to the planet as they are nitrogen-fixing organisms, so they actually replenish nitrogen in soils, helping restore soil nutrients and prepare them for other common crops. Lentils and other pulses are great crops to help reduce pesticide usage amongst farmers and promote regenerative agriculture practices.
Types of Lentils and Their Uses:
Lentils come in various colors, each with its unique characteristics and culinary applications. Green lentils, for example, hold their shape well during cooking, making them ideal for salads and side dishes. On the other hand, red lentils cook quickly and have a slightly sweeter taste, perfect for hearty soups and stews. If you’re looking for a visually striking option, beluga lentils are small and black, lending themselves beautifully to salads and more substantial meals. In this recipe, we’ll be using green lentils to provide a pleasing texture when mixed in with the soft, tender spaghetti squash. In general, you can use dry lentils or pre-cooked lentils for many lentil recipes, it just depends on how much time you have.
Flavorful Lentil Recipes:
Let’s explore some mouthwatering lentil recipes that will make your taste buds sing. Indulge in a warm and aromatic lentil and vegetable curry, where spices dance with tender lentils and vibrant veggies. If you’re craving a refreshing and nutritious combination, a lentil and kale salad is the way to go. The earthy lentils complement the slightly bitter kale, creating a delightful balance of flavors. And for those colder days, cozy up with a comforting bowl of lentil soup, enhanced with a blend of spices and fragrant herbs.
Step by Step: How to Cook Lentils
- 1 cup red lentils
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 cup diced yellow onion
- 4 stalks celery, minced,
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- Optional: Bay Leaf
- Dice onion, celery, and carrots.
- In a skillet, add oil and allow to heat
- Over medium heat, add onion, celery, and carrots to the hot oil and sprinkle with half the salt in the recipe.
- Once vegetables appear cooked (see image), add lentils, bay leaves, and water into the skillet.
- Cook over medium heat covered for about 15 minutes or until lentils are tender
Step by Step Guide: How To Roast Spaghetti Squash
- 1 spaghetti squash
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Optional: Italian seasoning, a few minced garlic cloves, red pepper flakes, or other fresh herbs for garnish
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
- Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise
- Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and strings from the center of the squash, making spaghetti squash boats.
- Place the squash halves cut side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Drizzle the squash halves with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt (preferably kosher salt) and pepper. You can add any other seasonings you like such as garlic powder, and dried herbs.
- Roast the squash for 40-60 minutes, depending on the size of the squash, or until the flesh is tender and can be easily pierced with a fork.
- Let the squash cool slightly, then use a fork to scrape the flesh into spaghetti-like strands.
- Serve the spaghetti squash immediately with your favorite sauce or plant-based proteins. See the recipe to serve with lentils below!
Tips for Cooking Spaghetti Squash:
- For a richer flavor, you can brush the spaghetti squash halves with melted butter or ghee before roasting.
- If you want to add other vegetables to the squash, such as onions, mushrooms, or zucchini, toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper and place them on the baking sheet with the squash.
- While the squash cooks, you can prepare the lentils.
Spaghetti squash and lentils are a match made in culinary heaven. Their versatility allows you to explore a wide range of creative recipes, from classic favorites to innovative twists. With spaghetti squash’s unique appearance and mild flavor, it provides the perfect base for various fillings and accompaniments. Pair it with the protein-packed powerhouse that is lentils, and you have a nutritious and satisfying meal that will keep you fueled and satisfied. So, get adventurous in the kitchen, try out different recipes, and let the delightful combination of spaghetti squash and lentils elevate your dining experience. Don’t forget to share your favorite creations on social media and inspire others to squash their hunger with these fantastic ingredients!
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