The Italian word “zucca” is used to describe gourds and squash, as well as pumpkins. “Fiori di zucca” is what we call zucchini flowers. Spaghetti squash is referred to as “spaghetti di zucca,” or vegetable spaghetti.
Though spaghetti squash is available on the Italian peninsula, it isn’t a traditional Italian ingredient, per se.
When I started cooking in New York almost two decades ago, I was doing a new kind of Italian. It was reported as a “deluxe” version of the cooking found in the Italian countryside. To me, it was a logical next step. I used the techniques and preparations I had learned during my time in Italy and adapted them in new ways for American ingredients.
There’s no traditional Italian preparation of spaghetti squash, but you can, no doubt, approach it with an Italian-ness. You can bake it with olive oil, salt and pepper and add Italian parsley or sage for additional flavor, as I do in this preparation. Alternatively, you can just eat it just as you would spaghetti, with tomato sauce, for a vegetarian, gluten-free pasta.
At this time of year, you have to scour the grocery aisles to find what’s freshest. Like acorn squash, spaghetti squash is available year-round, but in January, February and March, the bleakest times in a New York market, you have to take advantage. During the winter, this is a tasty seasonal option that works just as well as a main course as it does as a side dish. And, again, spaghetti squash has a shelf life of about two months.
Spaghetti squash is a daunting vegetable, but this recipe makes it remarkably easy. It’s great as a side dish or a main course, to be paired with a meat or a pasta. And because it’s gluten-free, it’s a nice addition to a party spread.