How to Cook Spaghetti Squash

I LOVE spaghetti. 

Growing up, I would get made fun of by my family for how much of it I would eat (seriously, two or three massive platefuls in one sitting).

Not enough of a visual?

How about this: as a toddler, I’d run into the dining room struggling to rip my shirt over my oversized head so that I could eat my spaghetti as fast as possible without getting sauce on my clothes.  After dinner my parents would have to practically hose me down in the backyard I was so messy – totally worth it.

Now, in my quest for a healthier lifestyle over the past few years, I’ve learned that…gasp…gallons of pasta at each meal isn’t the healthiest thing in the world!  So, I’ve cut back drastically on my pasta intake – I probably eat pasta once every few months now, when I’m out at an Italian restaurant with friends and feel like letting go for a meal.

If you are a paleo person but love pasta, I feel ya.  This could help.

Maybe you’re not paleo, but you’re looking for an alternative to carb-heavy pasta.  This will help you too.

Today, you’re gonna learn how to cook Paleo Pasta.  Now, this recipe takes a little longer and is a little bit more complex than the easy Chicken Stirfry I taught you how to cook before.

If that was level 1, this is level 2.

Yeah, eating a small portion of regular spaghetti every now and then ain’t gonna kill ya, but I found preparing paleo spaghetti and meat sauce to be a fun challenge, it took me out of my comfort zone in the kitchen by making me do new things, and actually turned out to be freaking delicious and nutritious.

Let’s level up your cooking.



Mmmm Spaghetti Squash Goodness!

  • 1lb. of Grass-fed Ground Beef (my grocery store didn’t have grass-fed, so I went with regular)
  • 1 Onion
  • 2 Tomatoes
  • 2 Small Cans of Organic Tomato Paste (check the ingredients – it should only contain organic tomatoes…though look for JARRED tomato paste or make your own.)
  • 1 Garlic Clove (it’s the small part that you’re breaking off a garlic bulb. i’ll explain more later).
  • Pepper…and salt if you want some.
  • Italian Seasoning (it’ll be in the spices aisle – pick the one that’s labeled “ITALIAN SEASONING.”  To be sure, open and smell – if it smells like ITALIAN SEASONING, you’re on the right track.  If you can’t find it at this point, you should probably just sit down and give up).
  • 1 Medium Spaghetti Squash – will make enough for two people.
  • Olive Oil – I like extra virgin olive oil.


  • 1 Iron Skillet/Pan
  • 1 Medium Sized Pot
  • 1 Cookie sheet
  • 1 Sharp Knife
  • 1 Spatula
  • 1 Cutting Board
  • Tin Foil
  • Oven and Stove

If you’re like me (a nerd who generally stays away from the kitchen), half the stuff on the grocery list will be new to you.  I can certainly say I’ve never purchased a spaghetti squash before.  Honestly though, I found it fun to go exploring in new parts of the grocery store and track down these items.  Just keep the ingredient list with you, ask people for help if you need it, and pretend like you’re a contestant on Super Market Sweep (not that I do that…every time I’m in a store….).


Start by pre-heating your oven to 400 degrees.  This will take a while to get warm so it gives you time to chop up your veggies and so on.

Chop your onion in half, and then peel off the outside layer – we only need half of it.  Put the other half in a plastic bag and stick it in your fridge.

After that, start slicing and dicing like a mofo until the onion is all chopped up.  Yeah, you might cry – suck it up.  If you have a food processor or a Slap Chop (you lucky bastard), this will be way easier.  I don’t have either of those, so I did it the old school way.

Next, rip off a clove of garlic – we only need a little bit of it.  Hang the rest of the garlic bulb around your neck to ward off vampires.

Take that little section, break it apart, and then carefully chop off the tiny ends of each section.  Then, use the side of your knife to smush it by pressing down hard on the side of your knife.  Peel off the outer layer, and then chop up the inside of it as small as you can without chopping off any fingers. That would result in a lot of blood, and the vampires won’t care about your garlic necklace, and you’re gonna have a bad time.  If you don’t feel like buying/chopping garlic, you can use garlic powder to add to the meat later, though it’s not nearly as fun.

Grab your two tomatoes (not a euphemism).  No seriously though, grab those two tomatoes.  Use your knife to carefully carve out the top part of it…

Then cut them in half, then chop them up into smaller pieces.  Depending on how you like your spaghetti sauce, cut them to your desired size – bigger chunks in your sauce or no?  The choice is yours, sucka.

Next, take your spaghetti squash, and use your knife to cut it in half.  Because the middle is kind of hollow and full of gooey stuff (like a pumpkin), I found it easiest to cut into the side of the squash, and then work the knife around it the long way.  Watch this video for a good demonstration.  JUST BE CAREFUL.

Love that Spaghetti Squash

Use a spoon and scrape out all of the middle junk in the squash.  Yup, it’s kind of gross. Get over it.

Scoop that Squash, SCOOP IT!

Take your hollowed out squash, and drizzle the insides with olive oil, pepper, and tiny bit of salt. 

Then oil it up, ooooh yeah. Oil that Spaghetti Squash up.

Give them a minute or two to sit and soak in the oil, and then put them face down on the cookie sheet, and stick them in the oven (which is now at 400 degrees) for 40 minutes.

Spaghetti squash down in oven

Making the Sauce

While the spaghetti squash is cooking in the oven, put your skillet on the stove, add a little bit of olive oil, and drop in your diced onions.  After a few minutes, they’ll start to take on a clear/yellowish color as they sizzle and cook.

Now it’s time to add the garlic, and mix that around for a minute or two…

And then add the beef!

Using your spatula, chop up the beef and mix it up with the onions and garlic.

Now, make it rain with your Italian seasoning and pepper.  And by that I mean “sprinkle it liberally.”

Continue stirring and chopping and mixing like a boss until the meat is a nice brown color.

When the meat is done cooking, take the pan off the stove, and place it on one of the other not-hot burners…

OR, you can strain the beef and get rid of the grease.  I chose to strain our meal for the evening.  Use a strainer, collect the grease in a bowl, and then when the grease cools down, dump it into a coffee canister or other container that you can keep in the freezer and then eventually dispose of properly.  Google “how to get rid of grease” if you need help here.

Combining the sauce AND THE SPAGHETTI SQUASH

Now, while your meat is cooking, take your empty pot, open up your two cans of tomato paste, and use a knife to scoop them out and pour in.  Then add your tomatoes.

Put the pot on low heat.  Around now, your meat should be cooked. 

Then dump in the meat, onions, and garlic into the pot and mix it all up.  If your sauce isn’t saucy enough, take your empty tomato paste can and dump in a can-sized amount of water (do one and see how the sauce looks, and then add a second if necessary).  At this point, feel free to add some more Italian seasoning and pepper.

You can leave the pot on really low heat and cover it up, while you’re finishing up everything else. Just stir it every so often so the bottom doesn’t burn.

Putting it all together

Pull your squash out of the oven after the 40 minutes is up, and using a pot holder and a knife/fork, flip the two halves over over.

Having two plates ready, use a fork to pull apart the inside of the squash…it’ll come apart very easily and look like spaghetti. 

Spaghetti Squash

Hollow out one, put it on a plate.  Hollow out the other, put it on the other plate.

This is the point where you say “OHHHH SO THAT’S WHY ITS CALLED SPAGHETTI SQUASH!”

Add your sauce on top, and BAM you have your home cooked, paleo spaghetti meal.  Finish off with a glass of water, red wine (not technically paleo I guess but hey, live a little), or some Drain-O and you’re good to go.

I’m kidding. please don’t drink Drain-O.

Any questions?

The dinner table is set.  Flower in empty wine bottle and Shadow of the Colossus on PS3 are optional.

I honestly had WAY more fun cooking this than was expected.  (thanks Jessie for helping me out and making sure I didn’t chop off any appendages).

If you’re struggling to come up with a fun date idea…nothing goes over better than cooking a meal together – and I think the total cost of the ingredients was around $15.  This meal made full servings for two people with enough sauce left over for two or three more servings.

If you don’t have anybody else to cook for, no worries!  This meal will make plenty of food for you to have for dinner tonight, lunch tomorrow, and beyond.  Plus, you can eat your spaghetti WHILE playing Shadow of the Colossus and nobody will yell at you.

I’m thinking of doing some more “how to cook easy meals” post here on NF real soon, coming from the perspective of a newbie in the kitchen.  They probably won’t all be paleo/primal, but they’ll be healthy and super easy to cook.

Is that something you’d be interested in every few weeks?  If I do, anything else you’d like to see in the posts?

Any thoughts, comments, or questions?

Let’s hear it!


PS: We’ve been adding these recipes and a few dozen more to our Nerd Fitness Academy, which has recipes, meal plans, workout plans, and the ability to complete quests and missions and level up as you get healthier. Check it out!


thanks to Fast Paleo for the recipe inspiration.

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251 thoughts on “How to Cook Spaghetti Squash

  1. Well, I made it tonight, but I’ve never cooked spaghetti squash before, so the “noodles” didn’t come out quite right. I’ve had spaghetti squash cooked by someone else before, and it was tender and noodle-like. Mine was hard and crunchy like chewing on an onion. And this was after I ended up cooking it for an hour. I tried it at 40 minutes, and it was even more crunchy than after the whole hour, so clearly this was a symptom of “not long enough” rather than “too long”. Next time I might go for two hours just so it gets tender.

    Paleo is going to be difficult for me, because I’m very picky with culinary vegetables based on their texture.

  2. I like to eat the spaghetti squash with a layer of French style green beans on the bottom. The green beans take on the flavor of the spaghetti sauce and feel like noodles. Super yummy! Also, a splash of red wine in your spaghetti sauce is delicious!!

  3. Try steaming the spaghetti squash in a covered microwavable container. It only takes 13-14 minutes on high with about an inch of water in the container.

  4. I LOVE this idea. I have never had squash spaghetti before and I AM A PASTA LOVER!!!!

  5. I like to use a cheese grater and just shred zucchini, because spaghetti squash just takes so much time in the oven. Just take the zucchini and blanch it for a few seconds then it’s ready for the sauce.

  6. Tomato paste has a lot of sugar. Try it with fresh herbs and fresh or canned tomatoes instead- San marzanos are my favorite. You can also use zucchini instead of spaghetti squash. Use a peeler to slice it thinly and cut it into strips. Only one clove of garlic?! You’re killing me here.

  7. Thank you!! We are starting our paleo journey tomorrow and this is my top thing to try!

  8. This looks delicious! I have one question though. I heard that butternut squash is high in carbohydrates. Does that make it unsuitable for someone who is trying to minimize carbohydrates? I don’t know if it is true that the squash is high in carb so just wondering.

  9. Not much a fan of the spaghetti squash, but I just got one of these things which has multiple uses and makes multiple kinds of cuts but I LOVE LOVE LOVE that I can not make spaghetti out of carrots, squash (both butternut and yellow), zucchini (and probably a ton of other veggies that I just havent tried yet)

  10. I’m trying this now, but with zucchini ribbons instead of spaghetti squash (Couldn’t find them anywhere). Hoping everything turns out well!

  11. I freaking love you! You crack me up! You should definitely write a cook book Steve. I enjoyed reading and I’m even more excited to try this tomorrow because of your humour. #keepitcoming

  12. If you have a Martelli’s near you, they usually stock them. I am in Sydney and Martelli’s is the only place I can find them.

  13. I love spaghetti squash when I make it I use ground turkey and ground chicken breast mixed together and I add pureed fresh spinach and fresh carrots to the meat mixture the meat does turn a lil green but no one has complained so far and everyone loves it super moist and it makes me feel like im doing something super great 🙂 thanks for letting me know what you consider to be paleo spaghetti to me it will be my delicious spaghetti squash I didn’t even realize I was almost eating paleo diet ( I refuse to give up my yogurt and cottage cheese ) until I just read an article thank you

  14. Even easier is wait until after it’s cooked to cut it in half. It cuts like butter. Just poke it a few times ith a knife to vent it. Mine are always ready in 10 minutes.

  15. Would love to see just the recipe and instructions so it can be printed easily. I just needed the sauce recipe, so had to copy and paste a lot! Looks soooo good!

  16. Healthy. Chicken. Tacos. There HAS to be a way. Whole wheat tortillas, grilled chicken. I’m sure it can’t be too hard.

  17. Steve my man — Congratulations on beginning to cook — If you’d like to explore Italian cooking and the adapt it to this “paleo” trend style, take a look at “The Essentials of classic Italian Cooking” by Marcella Hazen. It’s a revelation to the intellect, the tasetbuds and the artisan you have lurking within seeking expression.

  18. I’m trying my best to turn Paleo step by step, and I absolutely love your posts. Sometimes I get intimidated cooking a meal like this for myself, but you make it sound so simple, and so entertaining and fun! Love your website, thank you for the inspiration!!

  19. I often use bean sprouts for a substitute for spaghetti, just boil it with a little salt and drain… pour the sauce over it…. It’s pretty good.

  20. A little secret I’ve found to make getting tomato paste out easier.
    1. Use your can opener to open both ends of the tomato paste can.
    2. Remove one of the lids.
    3. Simply push the other lid through to the other side.
    4. Make sure to peel the remaining lid off the tomato paste.

    Voila, all the tomato paste without having to dig it out of the can, which invariably always leaves a bit left in there.

  21. ah, the scientific know-it-alls that don’t really know it all. I s’pose you don’t see a value in organic/non-gmo foods because the EPA says pesticides are safe, huh?

  22. Ive never thought to make spaghetti out of spaghetti squash! However, I absolutely love spaghetti squash, way more than actual spaghetti, and love it just plain with a little bit of salt and pepper haha. Its so yummy, and awesome how it just kinda turns into “spaghetti”

  23. a very limited amount and limited in types of pesticides as well. did you know the EPA also says certain pesticides (in amounts and types used only in non-organic farming) are KNOWN to cause cancer, yet they’re approved for use anyway?

  24. I’ve been eating pasta all my life most days of the week (i just love it so much) and i’m not fat at all. I also eat almost no fruit but I feel very healthy and i’m quite muscular as well without really doing much. Don’t know if going paleo would make a difference or not, but I might try some time.

  25. about 3 months ago I signed up with a new P.T. for my job I need to build up upper body strength (i’ve been quite good at doing lower body workouts on my own at the gym because – being a female – my lower body is stronger than my upper body and i notice the gains a lot quicker, as well as find it easier to do those exercises)., and i was pretty much a weakling. initially he set me up with machine exercises (yes, i know your feelings about those) and he even set me straight saying that it wouldn’t help me when it came to stabilizing free weights, but it did build up a lot of initial strength. i think i started out only being able to lift 3kg DBs, and now im doing 9kg DBs. i’ve moved onto free weights now, but i’ve noticed the hardest thing is diet. my P.T said that i shoulnd’t give up all the foods i love (because, really, pizza is great), but that i just shouldn’t eat it every week. and then there are energy drinks that are just so bad for me and i know that, but wow sugar is scarily addictive!! i’ve cut back a significant amount, but then when it comes to making meals, im useless in the kitchen. i always try go for the easiest meal, especially when it comes to breakfast, but sometimes the easiest isn’t very healthy (cough, cereals, cough)! so these little recipes are very helpful for people like me who basically walk into a kitchen, panic, and leave 🙂

  26. After the spaghetti squash is done, what is the consistency of the “noodles”? Are they supposed to be soft like spaghetti noodles or crispy? I made this the other night and mine were a bit crunchy.

  27. I have been making this for a few years now and this is by far one of my favorite dishes! It is beautiful you can stuff yourself with as much spaghetti as you can eat except this time you dont feel like your about to explode from all the grains you ate lol. Whoever came up with spaghetti squash pasta should get a humanitarian award! lol jk but he should definitely be put on a pedestal. I make this dish once a week for my family at least!

  28. So I’ve now made this twice, and while I didn’t dislike it, it’s not really similar in texture or taste to spaghetti noodles. The only thing saving it I think was the sauce and seasoning I added. The texture was just different. Like, I’ll make it again for the sake of the diet, but it’s not on my top roster.

  29. Ummmmm… Jsyk… If you open both sides of the tomato paste can, then you can push the end all the way through the can… Make a tiny cylinder of red mush.. Hum dunna, dunna, dunna. Because it looks like a Mario Bro’s tunnel.

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