We all love pasta. In fact, according to the National Pasta Association, roughly one-third of Americans eat pasta three or more times a week.

But if it's prepared with rich meat gravy or creamy alfredo sauce - as is frequently the case in restaurants and homes across the country - pasta dishes can spell trouble for your waistline and your health.

Here's a recipe that offers all the comforts of traditional pasta with none of the guilt. There's a bit of a twist - we're using spaghetti squash rather than spaghetti.

Spaghetti squash is one of the lesser-known members of the winter squash family and, as its name suggests, resembles actual strands of spaghetti when cooked. Unlike refined pastas, spaghetti squash provides additional nutrients, including fiber and vitamin C.

If you're not familiar with this rather oddball vegetable, autumn is the perfect season to try it. When choosing a spaghetti squash, look for a hard, deep-yellow rind that is free of blemishes.

Also, note that winter squash can be stored longer than summer squash thanks to the hard skin that protects its soft flesh.

The defining characteristics of spaghetti squash - the fibrous long strands - come to life once cooked. Simply run a fork across the flesh and harvest the thin "noodles" inside.

This mild squash takes beautifully to rich flavors like the peanut sesame sauce featured here. The addition of garlic, ginger and sesame oil lend this dish a decidedly Asian influence.

More from our magazine:  Fall Produce Guide: What's in Season, Nutritional Info and Diabetic Recipes to Try.

Spaghetti Squash with Sesame-Peanut Sauce

Yield: Makes 4 entree-sized servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • 2 Tbsp. chunky peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup fat-free, reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • Pinch of dried red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions, trimmed for garnish
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped peanuts, for garnish (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste (optional)

Directions

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  1. Pierce the spaghetti squash generously with a knife to prevent it from exploding. Place the squash on a microwave-safe dish and microwave on high until tender when pressed with your fingers or pierced with a thin skewer, about 15 minutes.
  2. Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting the squash. When cool, halve the squash and remove the seeds. Scrape the flesh with a fork, collecting the "spaghetti" strands in a medium-sized bowl. Separate the strands using a fork or your fingers.
  3. In a blender or food processor, mix the peanut butter, broth, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, vinegar, sesame oil and red pepper flakes until completely blended. Add the peanut sauce to the separated, cooked spaghetti squash. Toss to coat. Garnish with scallions and peanuts, if desired. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
130 calories
7 g total fat
1 g saturated fat
16 g carbohydrate
4 g protein
4 g dietary fiber
200 mg sodium

Diabetic Exchanges: 1 Low-Fat Meat, 3 Vegetable


AICR