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SPAGHETTI SQUASH IN THE MICROWAVE

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Next time you're planning to make spaghetti for the family, use spaghetti squash instead of pasta. The golden strands of spaghetti squash, with their crisp texture and nutty flavor, are a nice change.

You could, of course, have spaghetti squash as a side dish. Just add butter, salt and pepper. Or, if you want the squash as a main dish, open a jar of your favorite brand of prepared sauce, heat and pour over the cooked spaghetti squash.In the microwave, a medium spaghetti squash cooks in 15 minutes or so, about a fourth of the time it takes in a conventional oven. Be sure to puncture the squash before zapping and place it on white paper towels. It's likely to squirt during the microwaving.

The big season for spaghetti squash is now through December. When you buy one, store it in a cool, well ventilated room, not in the refrigerator. Only cut or cooked squash should go in the refrigerator.

These two favorite recipes are variations of recipes you'll see in many cookbooks.

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RECIPES

SPAGHETTI SQUASH WITH MEAT SAUCE

1 spaghetti squash, about 2 pounds

1 pound pork sausage meat

1 small onion, diced

1 green pepper, diced

1 (14 1/2- to 16-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon basil

Salt to taste

Basil for garnish

With fork, pierce squash in several places. Place on double thickness of paper towels in microwave. Zap on high 12 to 15 minutes until flesh is tender when pierced with a fork, turning over once half way through cooking. Wrap in foil and set aside.

In microwave dish, place crumbled sausage and onion. Cover with paper towels and zap 5 to 7 minutes, until meat is no longer pink. Stir often to break up lumps. Add green pepper, tomatoes, tomato paste and basil. Stir to mix. Zap on high 15 to 18 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and sauce thickens slightly. Season with salt.

Split squash in half lengthwise and discard seeds. With two forks, lift out strands of squash and transfer to warm platter. Spoon sauce over top and garnish with Serves 4.

SPAGHETTI SQUASH WITH VEGETABLES

1 1 1/2- to 2-pound spaghetti squash

2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch slices

1 large red or green bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 celery rib, sliced

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

4 tablespoons butter

2 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Chopped parsley, for garnish

Microwave squash (see above). Set aside.

In a 1-quart casserole, combine zucchini, bell pepper, celery, basil, salt and pepper. Toss to mix. Dot with butter. Cover and cook on high 3 minutes. Add tomatoes. Cover, cook 3 minutes.

With a large sharp knife, cut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds. Transfer squash strands to a serving platter. Spoon vegetables over top. Sprinkle with cheese and parsley. Makes 4 servings.