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Spaghetti squash marinara is a delicious way to enjoy this low-carb winter squash. This flavorful recipe is made with just five ingredients and only about 10 minutes of hands-on time.

spaghetti squash marinara
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Why we love this recipe

Spaghetti squash has been in wide circulation as a pasta substitute for the past decade or so, since it ticks all the right nutritional boxes for a variety of trendy diets. I’m not a believer. But I do enjoy this winter squash in its own right, both for its taste and its flexibility as an ingredient. This recipe:

  • Makes a nice presentation served right in the squash halves
  • Uses only five easy ingredients
  • Is super-easy to make
  • Works well as a main dish or a side dish
  • Is worth making because it tastes great, but also fits the bill for those avoiding gluten, flour, carbs, etc.

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance at the short list of ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe.

ingredients in bowls
  • Look for a medium-sized spaghetti squash — about 9 inches long and 3 pounds. It should be firm and oblong with relatively evenly colored flesh. The squash in the photo has already been roasted. You can refer to the video to see what it looks like raw.
  • A very good quality jarred marinara is fine here, or make your own. (Truth be told, in my whole life, I’ve only ever met one jarred sauce worth using, and it’s this one. I use it frequently when life gets busy.)
  • The tomato paste helps thicken up the sauce since there’s plenty of moisture in the squash itself.
  • Use a good-quality parmesan or pecorino cheese, since it adds a lot to the flavor.
  • Use low-moisture mozzarella (the stuff in the block that you’d shred for pizza).

How to make it

Here’s what you’ll do to make spaghetti squash marinara. You can see all the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post. And get the details in the recipe card below.

  1. The most labor-intensive step of making this dish is prepping the squash, and it’s really not a big deal. Cut the squash in half lengthwise (see the FAQs for more on this topic) and scoop out the seeds and any stringy flesh from the center. Then you’ll roast the prepared halves cut-sides down on a lined, rimmed baking sheet until just tender.
  2. Use a fork to shred the flesh, leaving a healthy border around the outside (about 1/4 inch). You can scoop this part up with a fork as you eat, but for now it will help contain the ingredients without any leakage.
  3. Mix together the marinara sauce, tomato paste, half of the parmesan, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Divide this mixture evenly between the squash halves and mix it into the shredded flesh of the squash.
  4. Top the halves with the mozzarella, the remaining parmesan, and some more pepper. Bake for 15 minutes, until melted and bubbly. If you’d like some browning on top, run them under the broiler for a couple of minutes before removing from the oven.

Expert tips and FAQs

Is spaghetti squash a good substitute for pasta?

I have some fairly firm opinions on this matter. 🙂

You’ll see all kinds of strongly worded advice on the internet about how to cut and prep a spaghetti squash. (Salt and drain it! Cut it horizontally for longer shreds! Roast it super-high so you don’t steam it!) Most of this comes from people who are trying to persuade themselves that this squash is a convincing replica of pasta.

It isn’t.

But it is a delicious food of its own. The name refers to the LOOK of the strands of flesh once cooked, but it really has absolutely nothing to do with the texture or what I imagine would be the squash’s own wishes for itself in the world.

What if I want longer strands of “spaghetti?”

If you’re really eager to make the squash shred into longer strands, you can halve it vertically rather than horizontally before roasting. When you shred it this way, it will result in much longer pieces.

How do you reduce the moisture?

Cooked spaghetti squash does hold onto a bit of liquid. I don’t mind it one bit in this dish — it mingles with the sauce and cheese and results in a few tablespoons of delicious broth inside the boats.

If you’re not into that sort of thing, you’ve got a few options. Sprinkling the prepped raw squash halves with salt, and placing them cut-sides down on a rack to drain for half an hour will reduce the water content.

Roasting at a higher temperature (at least 425°F) will result in more caramelized, less steamy flesh. I don’t personally prefer this outcome for spaghetti squash marinara.

Finally, you can scoop the cooked shreds from the skin and drain them in a colander after roasting and before mixing with the sauce mixture, then return them to the boats (or not) if you like.

Can I add protein?

Yes! Ground beef, turkey, chicken, or sausage would all make excellent additions to this meal. Sauté it in a skillet (with some minced onion, garlic, and salt and pepper) until browned and cooked through. Then add it to squash boats — either in a separate layer or mixed throughout — before topping with cheese and returning to the oven as indicated in the recipe.

For a vegetarian version, you could mix in a rinsed and drained can of white beans or chickpeas.

Can you roast spaghetti squash seeds?

You sure can! Treat them exactly the way you’d treat pumpkin seeds.

After scooping from the squash, wash well to remove all traces of the stringy flesh. Dry very well between paper towels. I often let them sit on the counter on the bottom layer of paper towels for an hour or so (say, while the squash itself is in the oven) before proceeding.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (or lower it to this temperature after baking your squash, and give it a few minutes to adjust). In a mixing bowl, toss the dried seeds with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper, or whatever seasonings you’d like to use.

Spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for about 12 to 15 minutes, until crisp and crunchy. There are a lot of variables, from the size of the seeds to their moisture content, so keep an eye on them and use your judgment on timing.

Once cooled, you can store them in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for a couple of weeks.

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spaghetti squash marinara
4.55 from 11 votes

Spaghetti Squash Marinara

By Carolyn Gratzer Cope
Spaghetti squash marinara is a delicious way to enjoy this low-carb winter squash. It's made with just five ingredients and only about 10 minutes of hands-on time. Serves two as a main dish or up to six as a side dish.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 55 minutes
Total: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 2
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Ingredients 

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash
  • 1 ½ cups marinara sauce
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 2 ounces grated parmesan or pecorino
  • 4 ounces shredded mozzarella
  • Lots of freshly ground black pepper
  • Scallions to garnish, optional

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 375°F with a rack in the middle. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and any stringy flesh in the middle.
  • Place halves cut-sides down on a parchment- or silpat-lined rimmed baking sheet.
  • Roast until just tender, about 40 minutes depending on size of squash.
  • Once cool enough to handle, use a fork to shred the flesh of the squash, leaving a border of about 1/4 inch around the sides and bottom. Diners can shred and eat this bit at mealtime, but for now it will serve as a nice barrier for the filling.
  • In a bowl, mix together the marinara sauce, tomato paste, half the parmesan, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Divide the mixture evenly between the squash halves and mix it thoroughly with the shredded flesh.
  • Top the boats with the mozzarella, the remaining parmesan, and some more pepper. Return to oven for 15 minutes, until filling is melted and bubbly. If you’d like a bit o browning on top, you can run the squash under the broiler for a minute or to before removing from the oven.
  • Sprinkle with scallions or other garnish if you like, and serve.

Notes

  1. If you’re really eager to make the squash shred into longer strands, you can halve it vertically rather than horizontally before roasting. When you shred it this way, it will result in much longer pieces. 
  2. Cooked spaghetti squash does hold onto a bit of liquid. I don’t mind it one bit in this dish — it mingles with the sauce and cheese and results in a few tablespoons of delicious broth inside the boats. If you’re not into that sort of thing, you’ve got a few options. // Sprinkling the prepped raw squash halves with salt, and placing them cut-sides down on a rack to drain for half an hour will reduce the water content. // Roasting at a higher temperature (at least 425°F) will result in more caramelized, less steamy flesh. I don’t personally prefer this outcome for spaghetti squash marinara. // Finally, you can scoop the cooked shreds from the skin and drain them in a colander after roasting and before mixing with the sauce mixture, then return them to the boats (or not) if you like.
  3. If you’d like to add protein to this meal, you absolutely can. Ground beef, turkey, chicken, or sausage would all make excellent additions to this meal. Sauté it in a skillet (with some minced onion, garlic, and salt and pepper) until browned and cooked through. Then add it to squash boats — either in a separate layer or mixed throughout — before topping with cheese and returning to the oven as indicated in the recipe. For a vegetarian version with added protein, you could mix in a rinsed and drained can of white beans or chickpeas.
  4. Store any leftovers tightly sealed in the fridge for up to a week, either right in the boats or scooped out into a container. Reheat in the microwave on half power in a covered bowl before serving.

Nutrition

Serving: 1, Calories: 202kcal, Carbohydrates: 21g, Protein: 11g, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 27mg, Sodium: 691mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 9g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Vegetarian Bakes
Cuisine: American
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About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

4.55 from 11 votes (11 ratings without comment)

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