This baked spaghetti squash recipe is very simple. It’s inspired by a classic dish, cacio e pepe, which calls for tossing noodles with nothing more than olive oil, pasta cooking liquid, cheese, salt, and pepper. Here, baked spaghetti squash, pulled with a fork to create noodles, replaces the more traditional pasta. The warm sweet notes of the squash take so well to salty and sharp Pecorino. Truly a perfect match!
I’ve had this recipe for cacio e pepe spaghetti squash bookmarked since last fall, when I first found myself flipping through Skinny Taste’s latest cookbook: One and Done.
The only thing keeping me from making it has been the spaghetti squash itself, which is something I would cook more often if I didn’t find it terrifying to open.
But a few weeks ago, when I stumbled upon this America’s Test Kitchen video offering winter squash-opening guidance, I felt inspired to give it a go. Though my attempt at the method — using a rubber mallet to gently tap the knife through the squash — was not as smoothly executed as I had hoped, it got the job done, and before long the squash was roasting away.
This is a very simple preparation, inspired by the classic dish cacio e pepe, which calls for tossing noodles with nothing more than olive oil, pasta cooking liquid, cheese, salt, and pepper. As it turns out, the minimalist seasonings — the saltiness and sharpness of the Pecorino in particular — are a perfect match for the warm, sweet squash.
You can serve this as a side dish, but to make it a meal, you could heap it atop chickpeas cooked with lots of onions, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. If you’ve cooked your chickpeas ahead of time, they whole dish can be ready to go in about an hour.
How to Cut Spaghetti Squash
- First: *Update Thanks to Commenters!*: Cut the squash crosswise as opposed to lengthwise. Cutting crosswise is not only easier but also (counterintuitively) produces longer, more spaghetti-like strands. Interesting, right?
- Knife/mallet method: Lay squash on a secure cutting board. (To do this, wet a cloth napkin or towel and lay it beneath the board.) Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut into the spaghetti squash’s flesh but stop once the blade is secured in the squash. Use a rubber mallet to gently tap straight down on the top of the knife’s handle. As you tap, the knife should move through the flesh, and the spaghetti squash should split open.
- Microwave method: Using a sharp paring knife, make cuts all around and into the flesh of the spaghetti squash. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Remove. Let cool briefly. Using a sharp chef’s knife cut the squash in half. If the skin is still too tough, return to the microwave for another minute minutes. (Note: You can cook the spaghetti squash entirely in the microwave, but know that you’ll have to remove the seeds after you cook it, and the flavor will be more steamed as opposed to roasted.)
- Instant Pot Method: No need to poke any holes in it. Place 1 cup of water into the Instant Pot, set the squash on a trivet, and cooked it at high pressure for 5 minutes, then do quick release. Remove spaghetti squash. Let cool briefly. Using a sharp chef’s knife cut the squash in half. If the skin is still too tough, return to the Instant Pot for another five minutes. (Note: You can cook the spaghetti squash entirely in the Instant Pot (30 minutes, high pressure) but know that you’ll have to remove the seeds after you cook it, and the flavor will be more steamed as opposed to roasted.)
- Crazy mother method: Go to store and buy the largest ziplock bag you can find. Enclose your spaghetti squash inside. Smash the bag on your driveway. (My mother truly does this.)
Here’s the play by play: Find a way to …
… cut open your spaghetti squash. See various methods above.
Season the squash with salt and pepper.
Place cut side down on parchment- or foil-lined sheet pan.
Roast for 55-60 minutes…
or until caramelized at the edges.
Pull the flesh into strands.
Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and Pecorino.
Serve the squash as a side dish or …
… sauté an onion with …
… garlic and crushed red pepper flakes.
Add chickpeas and their cooking liquid and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Transfer to a bowl.
Top with squash.
Grate more cheese over top. Yum.
This spaghetti squash recipe is from Skinny Taste’s One and Done Cookbook. It can be served as a side dish, but to make it a meal, I like to pair it with chickpeas simmered in their cooking liquid with lots of sautéed onions and garlic.
If you like video guidance, I made this on Instagram Stories.
*Update Thanks to Commenters!*: Cut the squash crosswise as opposed to lengthwise. Cutting crosswise is not only easier but also (counterintuitively) produces longer, more spaghetti-like strands. Interesting, right?
If you have a microwave: Use it to soften the flesh of the spaghetti squash, thereby making it easier to cut into. One minute on high should do it, but continue to cook at 1 minute intervals if skin is still too hard after the first pass.
I also found this ATK video helpful.
You can also you an Instant Pot. No need to poke any holes in it. I use 1 cup of water and cook the squash at high pressure for 5 minutes, then do a quick release. This softens the skin enough to make cutting easier.
for the squash:
- 1 medium spaghetti squash, (2 3/4 to 3 pounds)
- kosher salt, for seasoning
- fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
- 1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
for the chickpeas:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 to 2 onions thinly sliced to yield 1-2 cups
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced
- pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas in their cooking liquid
- flaky sea salt for finishing
Heat oven to 400ºF. Line a sheet pan with foil or parchment paper.
Halve the spaghetti squash crosswise and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and stringy yellow strands, then discard. (See notes in post and above for how to cut open a spaghetti squash.)
Season the flesh with a pinch of salt & pepper then place the squash cut side down on the prepared pan.
Bake until the flesh can be easily pierced with a fork, 55 to 60 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.
Using a fork scrape out the squash flesh into a bowl; it will separate into spaghetti-like strands.
Add olive oil, Pecorino Romano, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Toss well and serve immediately, or to make the chickpeas, continue on.
To make the chickpeas: Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring every so often, till they begin to caramelize, 7 to 1o minutes. Add the garlic and pepper flakes to taste, and cook for a minute more. Add the chickpeas and 2 cups of cooking liquid and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for 10 minutes or until chickpeas begin breaking down. Taste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add liquid as needed to keep the chickpeas somewhat brothy.
- To serve. Spoon chickpeas into a bowl. Top with a spoonful of spaghetti squash. Use a microplane to shave more Pecorino over top. Serve, passing more salt and pepper on the side.
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Oven/Roast
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: squash, spaghetti squash, pecorino, chickpeas