spaghetti cacio e pepe

5:41 PM

I don't know about you, but I am exhausted at the end of the work day.  Although I love cooking, I sometimes just feel like whipping up a quick meal and will not be bothered.  Instead of warming up a frozen dinner or canned whatever, I recently decided to try Laura Vitale's Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe! I got the recipe from Laura's newly released cookbook! It is full of simple, delicious recipes, and I can't wait to dig into it.  To purchase her wonderful cookbook, click here!

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe is basically spaghetti with cheese and pepper.  It's super easy and simple to make; think of it as a less creamy version of mac and cheese! It goes great as a side dish; I personally think this would pair well with chicken.  I really recommend taking a look at the original recipe in the book since I may take shortcuts or make adaptations to the original recipe.

12 oz dried spaghetti
4 tbs (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino romano
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

When cooking pasta dishes, I always get a pot of water boiling first; it's usually the thing that takes the longest.  I did exactly that for this recipe.  I also decided to put my butter in a heatproof bowl next to the stove to soften while I prepped the rest of my ingredients.  Note: I always use real, good-quality butter;  it makes a huge difference in the taste.  I would not recommend substituting the butter for margarine or "fake butter" in the tub! It will not taste the same.  I used my Challenge Unsalted Butter this time.

While the pasta water was boiling, I decided to prep my cheeses.  This recipe calls for both Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano.  In the below photo, the Pecorino is to the right and the two chunks of Parmigiano are to the left. The Pecorino is a really sharp and salty cheese and is often used with pasta dishes, like this one. Parmigiano is a little grittier in texture than Pecorino.  It is also sharp and has a little more savory/nutty flavor to it.  I love both, but I actually prefer Pecorino! Anyway, make sure to use good quality cheeses in this dish. They are the STARS of this dish (well, also the black pepper, but I'll get to that).  Do NOT use that parmesan in the canned aisle; I beg of you.

I then grated the cheeses using my handy grater/measuring cup. It's pretty awesome. You snap on the "grating" lid and you can grate whatever you want directly into a measuring cup.  I forgot where I got this; it may have even been a gift!

By the time I grated my cheeses, my water was boiling and ready for the pasta.  For this recipe, I used a corn, quinoa, rice, and fiber pasta by Garofalo that I found at Costco; it's gluten-free as well.  This is my first time trying this gluten-free pasta, and it did not taste bad at all! The consistency was a bit different, but I would buy it again! I still prefer regular pasta, but I would give this a try if you want gluten-free. To buy it, click here or visit your local Costco (not sure if they still have it in stock).

This recipe called for the pasta to be cooked 2 minutes less than the designated cooking time, so I boiled the pasta for 8 minutes.  I also reserved 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water before draining the pasta.  While the pasta was draining, I placed the same empty pot on the stovetop over medium heat.  In the pot, I added the drained noodles and the reserved cooking water.  Then I tossed in my Challenge butter, the grated cheeses, and loads of black pepper.  To be honest, I think I added wayyyyy more than 1 tsp of pepper.  I just kept grinding my pepper mill until I couldn't grind NO' MO'! Also make sure to use freshly ground black pepper for this dish; the flavor is just a million times better. I cooked this mixture for 3 minutes, stirring constantly so that it wouldn't burn and the cheese wouldn't stick.

After the 3 minutes, I turned off the heat, covered the pot, and let the pasta sit for 1 minute.  After the minute, I quickly plated the dish! Here it is in its glory:

I loved this dish. It was milder than I was expecting but satisfying nonetheless. I added a bit more salt to it after making myself a full plate. If you make this dish, make sure to thoroughly salt your pasta water. OR, alternatively, add more grated cheese on top of your personal serving.  I recommend this for a quick, easy dinner on a weeknight or a side dish to a grilled marinated chicken breast or even some leftover chicken parm!

Stay tuned for my next kitchen discovery: CANNELLINI BEANS WITH BACON & SPINACH!

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