Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cacio y Pepe (aka, cheese and pepper pasta)

I guess I've been on an Italian kick lately. I'm not really sure why, but I'm going to blame it on the fetus. Every time I eat Italian food or drink coffee, it's like a Solid Gold dance-a-thon is going on in my uterus.

Anyway, I've been thinking a lot about this particular dish for a while now. I've been hesitant to make it, because Ross is really not huge on black pepper. He'll eat it (but admittedly, there's only been one time since I've known him that he's refused to eat something. Generally he'll eat things he doesn't even like, unlike me), but he's not into it. And generally, he'd prefer to just dispense with the pepper entirely if possible. So that can make serving this kind of a mean thing - I mean, imagine: you're sitting there, happy as a clam with your massive bowl of yums, while your companion is sitting there picking at their massive bowl of yucks. I really feel like if eating isn't making you supremely happy, you're just not doing it right. Hence, I was hesitant.

But he said to go for it, so I went for it. And it turned out that he really loved this dish. Which proves, once again, that proper care and handling of an ingredient can turn something from gross to wondrous. This is also an incredible week-night meal, since it only takes about 20 minutes to prepare (so Daniel, this is getting posted for you!). Hope you enjoy!

1 pound spaghetti
4 ounces grated pecorino (ideally - I made this one with parmesan because that's what I had)
2 cups reserved pasta water
2 teaspoons ground black pepper, plus more for the table
3-4 tablespoons olive oil

Boil your spaghetti in heavily salted water until al dente, about 6 minutes. Get a couple cups of the pasta water and set it aside, then drain the pasta well. In the same pot, heat your oil. When it's rockin' hot, add the pasta and a cup or so of the water. Stir well, then dump in your pepper and cheese and keep on stirring. You may need more water to make your sauce, and if so, add it. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Variations:

- Some people use butter. Some people say this is unacceptable. I put in 2 tablespoons, because I'm cheeky like that.
- Bacon. This is wrong and non-traditional by all accounts, but it does taste good. If you're going to put in bacon, cut up 3 strips and cook it with the olive oil. Don't drain the fat. I did this because Ross asked me to, and he's nice to me so I thought it was okay.

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