Spaghetti Squash alla Cacio e Pepe
The simplicity of Cacio e Pepe (cheese and pepper) binds well with spaghetti squash to make a dish perfect for days when you need a filling pick-me-up.
Serves: 2 • Prep Time: N/A • Cook Time: N/A
Spaghetti Squash alla Cacio e Pepe
This is a little descriptor here – hi!
I, like many city dwellers, eat out more often than I probably should. Cooking is an incredible, joyful experience to be sure, but sometimes the kitchen is too hot, or too tiny, or I just don’t feel up to it.
It shouldn’t be a dirty secret because absolutely everyone experiences this. Amanda Cohen, the chef and owner of the beloved vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy in New York City, once wrote that her fridge is constantly filled with small boxes of leftover rice from Chinese delivery because she can’t always get up the motivation to cook. Granted, she cooks 18 hours a day every single day of the week, but the principle still stands.
I justify my excessive eating out by saying that I order things that I can’t make at home, or that if I did choose to make my restaurant-menu-item at home then it would suck because I don’t have the time/space/tools/etc. Spaghetti alla cacio e pepe is one of those dishes. It’s impossibly good, a savory, spicy, umami-laden pile of carby deliciousness that basically can’t be made well at home. Except, of course, that that isn’t true.
Cacio e pepe is probably one of the simplest Italian dishes you could ever make. It’s got, like, five ingredients: cheese, butter, pepper, water, pasta – and that’s it.
Cacio e pepe is probably one of the simplest Italian dishes you could ever make. It’s got, like, five ingredients: cheese, butter, pepper, water, pasta – and that’s it. It’s the kind of thing that a working, non-cooking dad would slap together for their kids when they discover that there’s basically nothing in the house to eat, not even knowing that this is a for-real Italian classic. It’s a wonderful dish, and will fill you with a bone-deep feeling of satisfaction.
Our version here at Forq forgoes the use of pasta and instead substitutes in spaghetti squash. Spaghetti alla cacio e pepe is not a dish that’s particularly good for you, and leaving out the pasta goes a long way toward rectifying that. Using spaghetti squash instead of pasta also makes this dish gluten free, an added bonus for those with health restrictions.
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First, place a large saucepan over medium heat and add 4 tablespoons unsalted butter. Once the butter has melted, add the black pepper to the pan. We’re basically frying the pepper in the butter in order to bring out its flavor, so cook until fragrant, about one minute.
While the pepper is frying in the butter, combine 1/2 cup water with 1 teaspoon corn starch in a small bowl. This starchy liquid will help bind the sauce together while also serving to thin it out a bit, and this method replicates how pasta water is incorporated into the sauce when this is made with spaghetti. Add the starch to the water a little bit at a time while whisking, as this will help you avoid clumps.
Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the starchy water to the pan, and whisk together with the butter and pepper. Once incorporated, add the cheeses and whisk together to form a sauce. Make sure to whisk constantly in order to prevent the bottom of the pan from burning. Raise the heat back to medium and add the cooked spaghetti squash to the pan. Mix well using tongs or two forks and heat until steaming. Serve immediately and top with additional cheese if desired.
Here’s how to make this delicious recipe
Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add unsalted butter. Once melted, add black pepper to the pan and cook the pepper in the butter until fragrant, approximately 1 minute.
While the pepper is cooking, combine 1/2 cup water and 1 teaspoons corn starch in a small bowl. Mix so that the corn starch is evenly distributed in the water and ensure there are no lumps.
Add the starchy water to the pan with the butter and pepper and whisk together.
Add the starchy water to the pan with the butter and pepper
Reduce heat to medium-low and add the parmesan and pecorino cheeses to the pan. Whisk together until the cheeses have melted and all the ingredients have incorporated into a sauce, taking care to whisk constantly so that the bottom of the pan does not burn.
Add the cheeses and whisk together until the cheeses have melted and all the ingredients have incorporated
Raise the heat to medium, add the cooked spaghetti squash to the pan, and combine with the sauce. Mix evenly using tongs or two forks and cook until hot. Serve immediately and top with additional grated cheese if desired.
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp freshly grated black pepper
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp corn starch
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup grated pecorino cheese
- 3 cups cooked spaghetti squash squeezed of excess liquid and mixed so that no clumps are present
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Who’s Cooking Today
Jacob Dean is a freelance food and travel writer, recipe tester, and culinary product reviewer based in Washington, D.C. He is a regular contributor to The Cook’s Cook Magazine, DCist, Industree, has freelanced as a recipe tester for the New York Times, and has been published by the Washington Post. Jacob has tried over twelve hundred unique beers (he keeps count).
You can find him online at jacobdeanwrites.com, on Twitter as @SchadenJake, and on Facebook as Jacob Dean Writes.
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