cacio e pepe
Hello, summer! Finally, you’ve made your arrival to New York – and boy oh boy, did you let us have it. I mean, could you be any hotter? Scratch that, I’m not about to challenge you – you’re already making my air conditioning work overtime. But really, let’s talk here. First, you play coy with us and take your sweet time, and then – wham! You are here, in full bloom: heat, humidity and everything in between. May I just say that the ladies with curly hair are just a wee bit cross with you? I’m just being honest.
The other bit is that this sudden and rather intense arrival is sort of creating a rift between me and my kitchen. I want to go in there so badly, I want to chop and dice and saute and broil, but you, you are making it very difficult. Almost impossible I’d say. I’m barely mustering the energy to cook some simple pasta dishes, like this one here and the one I wrote about recently. I’ve also taken to making ice cream to cool myself off, but I’ll save that for another day. As for pasta, as I cannot live on salad alone and peanut butter sandwiches are neither exciting nor inventive, I have to keep it short and sweet.
And lucky for you, dear summer, that it just so happens that my favorite pasta dish is this one. Yes, this very one. Dear readers, as you look below in search of ingredients, you find only five. I know – just five! And I bet you have most, if not all in your kitchen already. An authentic pasta dish that traces its roots back to Rome that’s as easy as making mac and cheese from a box, if not easier.
Originally labeled as cucina povera (aka humble food for the common folk who might not have the means or the time to fix themselves an elaborate meal) this is anything but a poor man’s dinner. The marriage of its ingredients, while deceptively simple, is anything but humble when it comes to taste. And yet again, it’s a step away from traditional tomato or cream sauces, which, believe me, you will not miss in this sweltering heat. The mere thought of a cream sauce is making me reach for my glass of ice water.
I know I keep saying to you fresh pasta, and I’m sure you’re a bit annoyed because it’s not like fresh pasta is sold in every grocery store. But, just trust me when I say fresh pasta is totally worth it. Really. It’s that much better. I think it might be the egg in it, but I’m not certain. If making pasta ain’t your thang, and believe me, I don’t blame you (who has the time and kitchen space?), try finding it in your supermarket. It will make a difference – and you won’t be sorry.
When we can be barely brought to approach our stoves, this is a solution that’s a good compromise. While you heat the water, you can grate the cheese and make basil chiffonade (a fancy term for slivers). Your fresh pasta takes mere minutes to cook and after a quick drain, you place it in bowls, add heaps of grated cheese, a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle with freshly cracker pepper. You mix the ingredients, and garnish with fresh basil slivers. Then you pour yourself a glass of chilled, robust white wine and sit back while eating your dinner. You won’t even break a sweat with this meal which means you win. Score: you – one; summer – zero.
Dear summer, you can bring your worst, I am ready for you.
Cacio e Pepe
8 ounces fresh pasta (spaghetti or fettuccine works well)
1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 1 ounce)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp freshly cut basil (cut into slivers)
Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain pasta and immediately add drained pasta and oil to bowl, then cheese and toss to coat. If dry, drizzle a bit more oil Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and sprinkle with slivered basil.