Mark Leslie's Spaghetti Squash Italiano

Winter is the time for squash—hearty and versatile. Spaghetti squash is a perfect vegetable swap out with its pasta namesake. Easy to prepare, either in the oven or microwave, the spaghetti-like flesh of this aptly named squash has a slightly sweet crunch, which in this recipe pairs well with zucchini, yellow squash, and grape tomatoes. Embrace your vegetarian side without having to indulge in extra pasta carbs … and, if going vegan, omit the cheese for a truly "all vegetable" dish. Buon Appetito~

1 2 1/2 to 3 pound spaghetti squash

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, minced

1 large garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup white wine

1 small- to medium-sized zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch-thick half rounds

1 small- to medium-sized yellow squash, cut into 1/2-inch-thick half rounds

1 dry pint grape tomatoes, whole

1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt, more to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more to taste

1/2 cup canned low-sodium vegetable broth

2 tablespoons freshly chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley

1/2 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or with foil.

Using a knife, pierce the spaghetti squash to the center cavity several times. This will vent the squash as it cooks whole in the oven. Place the pierced squash on the lined baking sheet and bake, yes whole, for 55 minutes to 1 hour—until a knife easily pierces the flesh with no resistance. Carefully remove from the oven (remember, the squash is round so it will want to roll around, be careful!) and set aside to cool. [To prepare in the microwave: pierce the squash several times to vent, making sure to go into the center cavity. It is very important to pierce (vent) the squash before cooking. Microwave on high for 10 to 12 minutes, turning once during cooking.]

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and sauté until translucent but without browning, about 3 to 5 minutes. If the onions are cooking too fast, add a couple of tablespoons water to slow the onions and stop them from browning. Stir in the garlic, cooking for a quick 30 seconds. Add the white wine, stirring until it reduces by half, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the zucchini, yellow squash, whole tomatoes, salt and pepper, stirring to combine well. Cook until the vegetables are lightly browned and tender but still retain their shape, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vegetable stock, a couple tablespoons at a time, as the vegetables start to dry out while cooking. You want the vegetables lightly golden brown and not burnt.

When the spaghetti squash is cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and discard. Using a fork, scrape out the strands of the squash from both halves, placing in a strainer over a plate or the sink, allowing to drain. Spaghetti squash has a lot of water in it. Discard the scraped out squash halves and any liquid after draining.

Add the strained spaghetti squash to the skillet and gently toss with the sautéed vegetables. When nicely combined, remove from heat, toss in the parsley, grated cheese, and drizzle with additional olive oil. Taste for seasoning, adjusting with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Makes 4 servings; 6 as a side dish.