Make Ormsby's chef's recipe for cacio e pepe using in-season spaghetti squash

Jeff Anthony of The Family Farmer farms on 43 acres with a Stockbridge address but just over the line in Rockdale County. He and partner Rodney Gabriel farmed on leased land in Kennesaw for two years, and this is their first year on their new property.

Anthony firmly believes in growing two things – what the market demands and what the market would find interesting. He began growing collards because his Marietta Square Farmers Market customers wanted to know when he would have collard greens at market. It turned out they also wanted to know when he would be selling spaghetti squash.

“Growing up in Michigan, we didn’t eat spaghetti squash. Same thing with okra. I didn’t know what they tasted like. When we thought ‘squash’ we thought of butternut and acorn and then zucchini. The whole world of squash is just different here. When our customers say they want summer squash, they mean yellow squash whether crookneck or straight neck. They don’t consider zucchini or patty pan as summer squash. But in Michigan, any squash you can’t keep over the winter is a summer squash.”

But when his customers started asking for spaghetti squash, he and Gabriel did their research and now they’re growing two 100-foot beds of spaghetti squash with seed they purchased from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

Each sprawling plant will produce about six good-size squash. “The squash get to be about as big as a football, maybe 11 to 12 inches long and six inches wide. They seem to be doing really well in our soil here. The land was used as pasture and this is the first time it’s been plowed since the 1970s.”

Spaghetti squash is the first of the semi-hard shell squashes to be ready each year. The farm planted its seeds in early May and was able to start harvesting squash about the middle of July, one of the first of the “winter” squash to be ready to eat.

“We know it’s ready to harvest when the fruit is bright yellow and the stems start to turn brown. The plants are fine, but the stems are drying and we know they’re ready to come off the plants. When first harvested, the skin will be a little rubbery, but then they dry and will keep pretty well. Not as long as a hard winter squash, but longer than a crookneck or zucchini.”

Spaghetti squash is always cooked in the shell until the flesh is tender enough to separate it into strands. Some cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and bake the squash until it’s tender. Then holding the squash in an oven mitt or dish towel, they rake out the flesh which separates into long strands that look for all the world like spaghetti. Others follow the same preparation steps but cook it lightly covered in the microwave.

Nick Anderson’s Spaghetti Squash Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe is a classic Italian pasta dish dressed with cheese and pepper. Chef Nick Anderson of Ormsby’s in West Midtown created this recipe to take advantage of the pasta-like qualities of spaghetti squash.

When shopping for the ingredients, you may find rapini labeled as broccoli raab.

1 (2 1/2 – 3 pound) spaghetti squash

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

4 cloves garlic, divided

1 shallot, sliced

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced rapini

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper

3/4 cup vegetable stock

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white wine

1 1/4 cups pecorino

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut spaghetti squash in half and remove seeds. Rub squash interior with 2 tablespoons butter. Put 1 garlic clove in each half and arrange on prepared baking sheet. Roast 30 minutes or until squash shreds easily with a fork. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly, then using a fork, pull out the squash threads. Discard garlic cloves. Set squash shreds aside.

In a large skillet, heat remaining 6 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Slice remaining two garlic cloves and add to butter along with shallot. Stir in reserved squash shreds, rapini and black pepper. Toss, then add vegetable stock and wine. Continue cooking mixture until sauce reduces by half. Stir in pecorino, toss and taste for seasoning. Serve immediately. Makes: 5 cups

Per 1-cup serving: 387 calories (percent of calories from fat, 64), 12 grams protein, 23 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 28 grams fat (17 grams saturated), 79 milligrams cholesterol, 628 milligrams sodium.

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