With the popularity of spiralizers — kitchen gadgets that cut vegetables into pastalike ribbons — and with “zoodle” — zucchini noodles — the newest word in the culinary lexicon, you’d think vegetable pasta was a recent invention. But cooks have been slicing produce into long, thin strips for generations, and no specialized new equipment is required to get the effect; a sharp knife, mandoline or vegetable peeler will do the trick. In the case of spaghetti squash, all you need is a fork, because nature has already done the noodling work for you.
True to its name, the flesh of spaghetti squash naturally separates into pastalike strands. Once you bake it, just use a fork to easily scrape it out of its peel. You wind up with a big pile of pale-golden vegetable noodles. They are tasty seasoned simply with a little butter, salt and pepper, but the vegetable’s spaghetti shape, color, firm texture and neutral flavor beg for pasta sauces, from marinara to pesto.
The accompanying recipe answers that call with a twist on the classic basil pesto. This sauce includes some basil for its floral aroma and flavor, but it is made mostly with arugula, which gives it a deeper, lightly peppery taste, and with almonds instead of pine nuts, for more nuttiness. Tossed with the spaghetti squash and served, like pasta, as a first course or side dish, it is a fresh and fashionable way to get your vegetables.
Spaghetti squash with almond-arugula pesto
1 large spaghetti squash (about 4 pounds)
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup whole roasted, unsalted almonds, plus ¼ cup, coarsely chopped, for garnish
1 small clove garlic
3 cups loosely packed arugula leaves
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
½ cup packed freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons water
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds, discarding them or reserving them for another use. Brush the cut sides of the squash with 1 tablespoon of the oil total, then place the halves, cut sides down, in a large, shallow baking dish. Add just enough water to the baking dish to reach ½ inch up the sides. Roast for about 45 minutes, until the squash is tender, then transfer the squash to a work surface and allow it to cool slightly, 10 minutes. Use a fork to scrape out the squash flesh, transferring it to a mixing bowl as you work; cover loosely to keep it warm. Discard any water left in the baking dish and the spent squash halves.
Meanwhile, make the pesto: Combine the 1/3 cup of almonds and the garlic in a food processor; puree until finely ground. Add the arugula, basil, ¼ cup of the cheese, the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of the water. Puree; while the machine is running, add the remaining ¼ cup of oil in a slow, steady stream to form an emulsified, bright-green pesto. Add the remaining tablespoon of water if the pesto seems too thick.
Spoon the pesto over the cooked squash in the bowl; toss with tongs to coat. Garnish with the remaining cheese and the chopped almonds. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Make ahead: The pesto can be refrigerated in an airtight container (separately) for up to 3 days. Allow it to come to room temperature before using.
8 servings. Nutrition per serving: 190 calories, 4 g protein, 16 g carbohydrates, 14 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 230 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 6 g sugar