Spaghetti squash: pale yellow strands make a different kind of 'pasta'

Zucchini may be the most prolific squash in the garden, but spaghetti squash is really the most fun. If you haven't tried it, look for a yellow squash about l0 inches long that looks like a golden watermelon.

Inside there are thin, pale yellow strands that look like spaghetti. This squash has a mild flavor, like many other summer squashes, but it also has a pleasant, crunchy texture.

My favorite way to fix it is to add butter and grated cheese, but it can be cooked and served in many different ways.

Although recipe directions often say to cook the squash whole either in a large kettle of boiling water or by baking it, I find the simplest way is to halve or quarter it, remove the seeds, and steam, boil, or bake the pieces until soft.

Some cooks recommend cooking the whole squash by boiling about 45 minutes. Then cool and peel, slice horizontally, remove seeds, and fluff out the spaghetti strands.

You can serve the spaghetti squash with butter or with meat sauce as you would with any pasta. I have had it with creamed chicken and mushrooms, white clam sauce, in a shrimp salad, in biscuits, and baked in a pudding.

Here's a recipe for a simple sauce, but you may add your own variations. Spaghetti Squash Sauce 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 1 medium onion, chopped 1 clove garlic, minced 6 fresh tomatoes Basil, oregano, salt, pepper, to taste 1/2 pound cooked ground beef Grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Saute onion and garlic in oil until soft. Add tomatoes and simmer until mixture thickens slightly, then add seasonings. Add meat and simmer a few minutes.

Serve over spaghetti squash and top with grated cheese if desired. Spaghetti Squash Casserole 1 large spaghetti squash 2 small onions, finely chopped 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup 1 cup sour cream 1 small jar pimentos, chopped 1 cup shredded carrot 1 8-ounce package herb-seasoned stuffing mix 1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

Boil squash whole in water to cover 30 to 45 minutes, until fork tender.

Cut in half lengthwise when cool and scoop out seeds with a spoon. Scoop out flesh close to the skin and with a fork fluff out the spaghetti-like strands. Cool and drain in a colander.

Combine onion, soup, and sour cream. Add carrot and pimento. Fold in squash. Combine stuffing mix and butter.

Spread half of stuffing mix in a l2-by-6- by-2-inch baking dish. Spoon vegetable mixture on top. Cover with remaining mix. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25 to 30 minutes or until completely heated.

This can be made in advance and refrigerated until ready to bake, or it can be frozen. If frozen, thaw before baking. Serves 6.

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