Spaghetti squash gets a bum rap, through no fault of its own. Unlike the creamy orange flesh of other winter squashes, the spaghetti squash has flesh that comes apart in thin strands, once baked. It resembles spaghetti, so people like to serve it with spaghetti sauce and pretend it's pasta.

Don't blame the squash for being foisted on you as a substitute for your beloved carbs. Maybe we should try to love spaghetti squash for its own, unique qualities, as in a recipe for Stuffed Spaghetti Squash With Black Beans and Cheddar.

If you've had spaghetti squash and found it disappointing, I hope you'll try it again. The first mistake that most people make is overcooking it. That may be due to us baking the other winter squashes, such as a butternut or acorn, until a knife easily pierces the shell.

But that's not the best way to test a spaghetti squash. Instead, you should turn the squash over and use the tip of your knife to try to separate the strands. Just stick it in about an inch and twist. If it comes apart in strands, it's done. If it's a little crunchy, that's good, especially in this recipe, which will be baked again with filling. If you bake it longer, the strands would become soggy, and the overall effect is more like a stringy mush — not the result we are looking for.

Once you have your perfectly cooked spaghetti squash strands, consider treating it like a vegetable rather than a low-carb pasta. Toss it with a vinaigrette and pile it on greens. Serve it with olive oil or butter and a sprinkle of minced parsley. Use the strands as a sandwich stuffer or stir them into soup. Add it to a pasta dish, or Asian noodles, to add more vegetables per bite.

In this recipe, the pretty yellow shell stands in for a casserole dish, providing a natural serving piece. Once you have your squash baked and scooped, you will just sauté an onion and chopped carrot, then mix it all with broccoli, herbs, beans and cheese.

The colorful vegetables give the dish some curb appeal and add some crunch. Thyme and sage complement the subtle sweetness of the squash, and tangy Cheddar gives it a savory note.

Get to know spaghetti squash on its own terms, and it just might become a family favorite.

Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of "Big Vegan" and "Plant-Based Meats." Find her at