Cacio e Pepe

71 Comments

Cacio e Pepe is an Italian pasta dish that translates to cheese and pepper. It’s a long-time standard of Roman cuisine.

Recently my daughter asked if I’d ever made it, and I never have. As much as I love and respect the simplicity of authentic Italian dishes, this one probably never intrigued me enough because of the lack of “goodies” in it, like a little Prosciutto, or smoked salmon.

But I decided it was about time to make Cacio e Pepe and embrace the perfection that is a traditional pasta dish.

When I started researching the recipe online, it was like opening up an Italian Pandora’s box. There were so many criticisms of recipes, techniques, and so forth. I’ve always found that the Italians are the most passionate about their traditional recipes remaining traditional.

I personally don’t mind variations on the original, but nonetheless I closed the box and decided on the recipe I would use. The important goal of making Cacio e Pepe is a creaminess that is created without using butter or cream.
_MG_0291
Here’s what I did.

First I grated 8 ounces of Pecorino Romano cheese and set aside.

Then I place a large pot full of salted water on the stove over high heat. I chose basic spaghetti, 16 ounces, for my pasta.
_MG_0269

When the water boiled, I added the pasta and timed 9-10 minutes.
_MG_0273
_MG_0275
After the pasta was cooked, I poured some of the pasta water in a bowl, drained the pasta, and returned the pasta to the pot. I had a stirring spoon on hand, and immediate added some of the pasta water to the pot, stirring gently.

I then added about 2 teaspoons of coarsely ground pepper and the grated cheese, along with more pasta water as needed. Vigorous stirring was necessary to create a creaminess and incorporate the cheese.


Serve immediately, preferably in warmed pasta bowls.
_MG_0311
I added more coarsely-ground pepper.
_MG_0305

This dish is so much about the pepper!

I can now understand why this simple pasta dish has endured for centuries. I’ve always loved and respected the simplicity of many Italian dishes, but I think this one takes the cake.
_MG_0300

However, as wonderfu as Cacio e Pepe is, tomorrow I’m adding some Prosciutto or smoked salmon.

Spaghetti Squash

54 Comments

There’s a special place in my heart for spaghetti squash. I love all squashes, and my locally available winter squashes like butternut and acorn are great for stuffing or for soups. But spaghetti squash can be used like noodles! After cooking the squash, you use a fork to scrape out the strands of spaghetti, except they’re actually squash strands.

Now I have nothing against pasta, but of course a vegetable, even a starchy squash, will always be healthier, especially over traditional white pasta. Plus the texture is fun and different. It’s just an option. And you don’t need a spiralizer!

There are many ways to cook a spaghetti squash, but I’ll show you the one I now stick with because it’s foolproof.
IMG_4511

And I mostly love it served spaghetti and meatball style!

spagh

Baked Spaghetti Squash

1 large spaghetti squash
Olive Oil
Salt
Pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using a cleaver, cut the squash lengthwise in half. (My halves aren’t perfectly matched, but I am always concerned for my fingers when I’m wielding a cleaver!)


Remove all of the seeds from inside the squashes. Then place cut-side up in a baking pan. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

squash1

Cover with foil, and bake for about 1 1/2 hours. If you want the squash to brown a little, remove the foil from the pan and continue baking for about 15 minutes.

Let the squash cool, then scrape at the squash halves with a fork to free up the lovely spaghetti strands. That’s it!


Try spaghetti squash as you would spaghetti, or with a Puttanesca, or underneath grilled chicken and peppers.
IMG_4530

Or you can stuff the squash halves!


I prefer spaghetti squash used as noodles. You can stuff other squashes!

Pasta with Tuna

14 Comments

I’m pretty sure this recipe originates from Italy, but I just like to think of it as something simple, quick, and delicious.

I’ve taught this recipe to both my grown daughters, because it is so inexpensive to make; it’s a good recipe to know when you’re on a budget.

The cost of the dish depends mostly on the quality of canned tuna you wish to purchase. If you’re on a budget, I would recommend purchasing the $0.69 canned tuna in oil. You can use the oil in the recipe, or drain the tuna if you prefer. (It will be less fishy if you drain the tuna.) Or, use the highest quality tuna you can find – like Italian or Spanish tuna. Either way, it’s a delicious, fresh-tasting pasta that provides protein and will “stick to your ribs.”

Another reason I like to make this myself, and fortunately I’m not on a food budget anymore, is that so many other ingredients can be added to this basic pasta with tuna recipe, so I can play with the dish depending on my mood. Maybe I should have named this post Pasta with Tuna, many different ways.

Nonetheless, here is the basic recipe:

Pasta with Tuna

6 ounces pasta – I used whole-wheat spaghetti
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 – 2 ounce can anchovies with capers (I actually thought I was just buying a can of anchovies – surprise!)
3-5 cloves garlic, minced
3 – 5 ounce cans Albacore tuna in water, well drained
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.

Meanwhile, in a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the anchovies and pound on them a little until they dissolve. Add the garlic and cook for just a minute.

tuna6

Then add the tuna and break up the pieces a little. Add the lemon juice and stir well.

tuna4

When the pasta has cooked and drained, add it to the tuna in the pot and stir well. If you want it a little more moist, add more olive oil. It is now ready to serve.

If you wish, add a sprinkling of capers to the pasta, as well as some chopped parsley.

tuna2

To make the dish even more healthy and hearty, add some well-drained white beans to the pasta.

And, you can even add some drained diced tomatoes to the pasta if you want to extend it a bit more. I would add the tomatoes to the olive oil-anchovy-garlic mixture, and then proceed with the recipe.

Then there’s always breadcrumbs if you fancy, or grated Parmesan cheese if you require this dish to be more cheesy.

And there – many versions of pasta with tuna. All easy, fast, healthy, and inexpensive.