Cacio e Pepe Spaghetti Squash with Chickpeas is super easy to make and the perfect lightened up comfort food! Cacio e Pepe (aka “cheese and pepper”) gets a higher nutrition makeover in this version made with spaghetti squash instead of pasta!
There has been a lot of pasta creativity happening here these last two months. I can’t say that I ever get tired of it. We even sometimes enjoy a fantastic gluten-free pasta based on corn. We have had bucatini cacio e pepe a couple times and even enjoyed it with fava beans.
The secret to a great cacio e pepe is the cheese! As we have been incorporating more diary free recipes, we have fantastic vegan parmesan cheese that we have been using on so many pastas.
There was this lonely spaghetti squash on my counter for over a month and it was time to crack it open and make it with something. I searched around for a way to use my squash with chickpeas and found this on Alexandra Cook's (I love her blog and want to eat every thing she makes!).
This is a really easy squash recipe to put together. The hardest part is just cutting open the squash! What’s is so nice about spaghetti squash is that it roasts up so nicely and the strands do sort of look like spaghetti when you break them apart.
Besides being full of fiber, spaghetti squash is totally gluten free and it absorbs the flavor of whatever you’re serving it with. The classic Roman pasta dish "Cacio e Pepe" comes together by tossing the cooked pasta with a bit of the pasta cooking water, some really great extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and pecorino cheese.
The pecorino paired with the cracked black pepper is what it’s all about! IF you happen to have pecorino cheese on hand (and you're not vegan or dairy-free), please do use it. Now, what I'm sharing today is a vegan spin on cacio e pepe. We did use our vegan parmesan cheese and it provided the perfect saltiness that pairs so well with the gentle sweetness of the squash.
How to serve this cacio e pepe spaghetti squash with chickpeas?
We served this dish as a side dish. It is also just lovely as a main course. The squash is wonderful on its own. But I highly recommend making it with the chickpeas. Sub it with another canned bean if you don’t have any chickpeas in the pantry.
What is the best way to cook spaghetti squash?
Once the squash is cut in half, scoop out the seeds and any stringy part. The next step is rub a little olive oil, salt and pepper on the inside. Place on a parchment lined baking tray cut-side down.
We baked ours at 425°F for about 30 minutes. Every oven is different. Just be sure to check your squash and make sure it’s not over baking. We like our strands not too mushy (more al dente).
How to Slice Your Spaghetti Squash in Half
Spaghetti squash, like so many of the other squash, has very thick skins. They are very tricky to cut and it’s most essential to have a very sharp chef’s knife.
Another important tip is to make sure you put a tea towel (even paper towel would work) underneath your cutting board so it won’t slip (a chef’s trick learned from my hubs).
To review what you need to begin: very sharp chef’s knife and an extremely flat and non-slip surface that you will cut the squash on.
First step, grasp the squash and hold it horizontally on the cutting board. With your very sharp knife, cut off a small portion from the very top (and also bottom).
Once you have your squash cut in half, scoop out the seeds. You could use a spoon or an ice cream scooper. Drizzle on some extra-virgin olive oil. Salt and pepper it. Place it cut side down on the parchment lined baking sheet (this is the photo of the squash before I flipped it over to roast).
When it is roasted, carefully remove the tray from the oven. When it has cooled a bit, flip it over.
The next step is to use a fork to pull the flesh into strands.
How to clean a leek?
The next thing to tackle is the leeks! Leeks are known to be sandy and dirty and you can’t just give them a quick rinse. Start by cutting off and discarding the root ends and thick dark green parts. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and rinse each half under cold water, pulling apart the layers to remove any grit that’s tucked inside. Once you’re down really rinsing it out, cut into small pieces.
IF you don't have leeks on hand, you could use a small onion and even scallions would be nice.
Heat up some olive oil in a medium sized skilled. Add the leeks and cook them up until soft and wilted. If you're using garlic, go ahead and it it.
Next thing, add in the chickpeas and the broth.
Simmer it all together. Season with salt and pepper.
Here are some gluten-free ideas for you :
- How to Cook Spaghetti Squash This is the post that explains it all in detail.
- Slow Cooker Turkey Bolognese Sauce (I make this sometimes with the spaghetti squash to go low-carb...just delicious!).
- Gluten-free Baked Spaghetti al Forno
Cacio and Pepe Spaghetti Squash with Chickpeas
- 1 spaghetti squash approximately 2lbs
- 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large leek white and light green parts only, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 garlic clove chopped fine
- pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 cups chickpeas
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup vegan parmesan cheese or pecorino if using real cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking tray (or casserole) with parchment paper.
- Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Using a spoon (or ice-cream scooper) scrape out seeds and any stringy bits inside (keep the seeds to roast them, if you like).
- Drizzle the olive oil on the inside. Sprinkle on salt and pepper. Rub it all in.
- Place squash cut side down on parchment lined trays. This recipe yields one squash (two halves). You could bake 4 halves (2 squash) at a time on a large baking sheet (just up the olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake 30-40 minutes until tender and the sides are nice and caramelized.
- Let cool for 10 minutes (it will be very hot to touch!!). Using a spatula, carefully flip over and use a fork to separate the squash into spaghetti-like strands. Place the strands of squash in a serving bowl. Drizzle on some olive oil. Set aside.
- If serving alone, add on the cheese, black pepper and another drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. If serving with the chickpeas, go on to the next step.
- While the squash is roasting, cook up the chickpeas. I used canned chickpeas, but if you cooked up your own fresh chickpeas, use the liquid you cooked them in.
- Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the leeks and garlic and cook, stirring regularly, until soft and wilted, about 10 minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary so as not to brown.
- Add the chickpeas and 2 cups of broth (add broth if you're using canned and not using the liquid you cooked your chickpeas in)and bring to a simmer.
- Simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add additional broth or water if it thickens too much. You want to have a little broth to serve it (but it’s not a chickpea soup). Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Spoon the chickpeas with the broth to a bowl. Top with some of the roasted spaghetti squash. Add on the vegan cheese (or grate on some pecorino if using regular cheese). Crack on some pepper. Drizzle on a little extra-virgin olive oil.
Please keep in mind that the nutritional information presented below is an approximation and may vary depending on the exact ingredients used.