This low carb twist on a traditional Cacio e Pepe Recipe is exactly what you need in your life. Easy, cheesy, peppery and soul satisfying.
All you need for this dish are four simple ingredients: butternut squash, salted butter, pecorino cheese and black pepper. It’s the most wonderful “grown up mac and cheese” with zero guilt. Whip up a batch and serve it as a main dish topped with air fryer chicken bites and a side of garlic naan tortillas. You’re going to love it, I promise you that.
WHAT EXACTLY IS CACIO E PEPE?
Literally translated, “cacio e pepe” means “cheese and pepper” in Italian. It’s traditionally made with bucatini (my FAVORITE type of spaghetti, I profess my love for it in this restaurant review), Pecorino Romano cheese and freshly-cracked black pepper.
Ya’ll know how much I love creating epic fusion recipes, so today we’re mixing things up with butternut squash. Since we don’t have starchy cooking water from the pasta to thicken the sauce, I also add butter. Because butter is like bacon and it makes everything better. Oh, bacon. That could be a really yummy addition. Or better yet, a dollop of bacon jam.
OTHER PASTA RECIPES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
Classic Fettuccini Alfredo with Peas and Pancetta
Chicken Parmesan Pasta with Chef Chris Coleman
The Best Butternut Squash Carbonara
INGREDIENTS FOR THIS CACIO E PEPE RECIPE:
Ahem, listen up. This is important. When you only need four ingredients to create a marvelous meal, quality matters.
- Butternut Squash: When picking out a squash at the grocery store or farmers market, make sure it’s a golden beige color without any cuts or bruises. It should feel heavy and solid. Can you use a pasta in this recipe instead? Of course, you’ll want to opt for a thicker one like bucatini, fettuccine or linguine. 8 oz. will do the trick.
- Salted Butter: If you were making this with traditional pasta, the butter isn’t 100% necessary because you can add a little of the starchy pasta water instead. However, I recommend it for both options as it adds a velvety touch of yumminess. Melt the butter in your skillet before adding the cooked butternut squash.
- Good Quality Pecorino Romano: This recipe requires a nicely aged cheese for best results. If you don’t have Pecorino Romano on hand you could also substitute it with Parmesan cheese. It’s very important to grate the cheese yourself, as the stuff in the green can or pre-shredded bags will not work in this recipe. Trust me, the end results are worth it (plus, your arms get a little workout in the process). 😉
- Freshly Cracked Black Pepper: Whip out your pepper mill and pile on the goodness. Depending on your personal preferences, you can use a coarse or fine ground for this recipe. I prefer the texture of a courser cracked peppercorn, but I’ve enjoyed it both ways and they’re equally delicious.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED EXTRAS:
- Salt: Just about every recipe needs a pinch or two of salt to bring out the flavors. I use salted butter in this recipe but sometimes you need a little extra. Sprinkle on a small amount, taste, and add more according to your personal taste preferences.
- Garlic: If you have some on hand, mince up a few cloves and sauté them in the melted butter before tossing with the squash and pecorino. I’m a HUGE fan of garlic so I pretty much add it to all savory dishes.
- Fresh Parsley: Herbs add a pop of freshness and color. Thyme, oregano or chives would also work here.
- Red Pepper Flakes: My tastebuds prefer a touch of heat, so I’ll usually add a few shakes before consuming.
- 1 Spaghetti Squash
- 4 tbsp. Salted Butter
- ¾ cup Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
- Freshly Cracked Black Pepper, as needed
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Slice the spaghetti squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place spaghetti squash, cut-side-down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Use a fork to poke a few holes in the skin. NOTE: You can drizzle the insides with a bit of olive oil if you'd like.
- Bake spaghetti squash for 30 - 40 minutes, or until fork tender. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack, cut-side-up. Once it's cool to the touch, use a fork to scrape out the strands.
- While the squash is cooling, melt butter in a large skillet. Add the spaghetti squash strands and sprinkle with freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Using kitchen tongs, toss together until the cheese has melted and formed a sauce with the butter.
- Top with freshly cracked black pepper and enjoy immediately.
NOTES ON THIS RECIPE:
- I like roasting my squash, but you can save about 30 minutes of cooking time if you microwave it instead. To microwave, simply place the squash cut-side-down on a microwave safe plate. Add a tablespoon of water to the plate and cover completely with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 10 minutes, or until fork tender. Times may vary depending on the size of your squash. However, I’ve found that 10 minutes is usually the magic mark.
- If you want to create more of a sauce with this recipe, add a splash of vegetable or chicken broth when you are tossing the strands with the cheese. Make sure to mop up any extra sauce with these Air Fryer Garlic Cheddar Drop Biscuits!
- This recipe pairs nicely as a side dish with perfectly cooked New York Strip Steak, Grilled Chicken Thighs, or as a pho-spaghetti base for my Truff Meatballs.
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