Monday, March 19, 2012

Spaghetti Squash "Aglio E Olio" Con Piselli -Vegan, Gluten Free And Low In Calories!

Spaghetti squash and peas in a classic "aglio e olio" sauce.

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Remake of a Childhood Favorite
Once a week my grandmother would make us "piselli con pasta" or peas with pasta. Only with her Neapolitan dialect she pronounced it "pizella ga bast". It wasn't until years later while studying Italian at the University of Texas did I learn the correct way to say it. It's kind of funny that a girl from Brooklyn being raised by a Neapolitan grandmother would have to go to Texas to learn how to speak proper Italian! But that's exactly what transpired. In any case, making peas and pasta always warms my heart because it makes me think of my sweet grandma.

Aglio e Olio
Most Italian white sauces have a base of garlic and oil or "aglio e olio". Making "aglio e olio" for spaghetti takes a lot of oil because the pasta soaks it up. Most recipes for a pound of pasta call for as much as 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil. Needless to say, the calories can really pile up. But when you use spaghetti squash instead of wheat spaghetti, you accomplish many healthful things:
* you can use a lot less oil
* spaghetti squash is naturally gluten free
* you are consuming a few servings of phytochemical rich veggies instead of starch
* it's lower in carbs (if that is a concern for you)
* it's lower in calories

Aglio e olio is a simple Italian sauce with a base of extra virgin olive oil with fresh garlic and crushed red pepper.

Spaghetti Squash
The first time I made spaghetti squash I was amazed at how the strands of steamed squash turned into spaghetti. But to get nice strands, you have to be careful no to overcook it or it will turn to mush.  I like to steam it for only about 15 to 18 minutes. 

Steam spaghetti squash in a large pot with a few inches of water.
Using a fork, carefully scrape the squash from the sides.

Spaghetti Squash and Peas "Aglio e Olio"
Vegan, Gluten Free
[makes 4 servings]

3 pound spaghetti squash
reserved cooking water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 can organic baby peas with liquid (~1/2 + 1T liquid) *
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
(Although I usually prefer frozen or fresh to canned peas, I use canned in this recipe because the liquid from the peas makes up an important part of this sauce).

Cut squash in half, remove seeds and sprinkle insides with salt.
Place in a large pot with several inches of water. Cover and steam until barely fork tender, around 15 to 18 minutes. Do not overcook.

When cooked, remove from pot reserving cooking water.
When cool enough to handle, gently pull the squash away from sides using a fork, forming strands of spaghetti. Place in a bowl and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat oil on medium low heat. Cook garlic and chili pepper flakes for one minute until fragrant. Add can of peas with their liquid. Season with salt.

Mix spaghetti squash in with peas. If dry, add a few tablespoons of reserved cooking water. 

Top with freshly ground black pepper, if desired, and serve.

Per serving: 184.8 calories, 7.5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 260 mg omega-3 and 884 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 0 mg cholesterol, 5 g protein, 25.8 g carbohydrates, 5.6 g dietary fiber and 657 mg of sodium.


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