…Because the weather is finally cooperating!
And it’s Monday.
How was your weekend? We spent part of it in Michigan (long story) and part of it in Mahopac hunting down my daughter’s wallet (even longer story). I’m happy to report that both adventures ended well but nevertheless, we are kind of exhausted. And so today, we need something light and optimistic, with the promise of long, lazy summer days to come with nothing to do but chill out and enjoy yummy food. Sounds heavenly, right?
Do you love cacio e pepe? Do you even know what it is? If not, don’t be embarrassed. i’m new to the whole cacio scene too. Basically, cacio e pepe is a Roman-based pasta dish that translates to ‘cheese and pepper’ which kind of sums it up brilliantly because traditional c e p, contains little more than pasta (usually spaghetti or some other strand type), black pepper and Pecorino Romano cheese. No need to make any special sauce—the reserved pasta water melts the cheese, so that every strand gets perfectly coated.
It’s a busy Italian mama’s dream. So easy! So simple! So delicious! Just the right balance of cheesy richness with the bite of pepper and the earthy starchiness of the pasta. Satisfying without being overly heavy. There’s a reason it’s a classic.
This version incorporates the bounty of springtime—aka asparagus and peas, which not only adds color and heft to the dish but makes it a more balanced meal. And they are easy veggies to prep—a quick chop for the asparagus and virtually nothing for the peas, unless you are using fresh and for a busy Monday, you should really be whipping out those frozen ones. This is not a time to be shelling peas!
And other than the pot you use to boil the pasta in, the whole dish comes together in one skillet, in just minutes. Serve it with a nice, crisp, green salad and dinner’s on the table. And we are calling it a day, my friends. Early to bed for this weary traveler!!
Easy Springtime Cacio e Pepe
Makes 3-4 servings—you could easily double the recipe for a bigger crowd
The cheese amounts and types I give below, are just suggestions. You could use any combo—all Parmesan, all Pecorino—all shredded or all grated—whatever you have on hand—just make sure it’s freshly grated. It makes all the difference here because there are so few ingredients involved.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Kosher salt for the pasta water
8 ounces spaghetti or other stringy pasta
1 bunch thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (or use thicker asparagus but slice them lengthwise too to make them thinner)
1 cup peas (frozen is fine)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 tablespoon coarsely ground fresh black pepper
2 ounces freshly grated Pecorino Romano (about 1/2 cup)
2 ounces shredded Parmesan (about 1/2 cup), plus more for serving
Coarse sea salt to taste
1. Bring a large pot of well salted water to boil. Add the pasta and boil about 2 minutes less than the package directions say for al dente. During the last minute of cooking, add the asparagus and peas. Use a ladle to scoop out about 1 cup of the pasta water to use for later. Drain the pasta and veggies in a large colander and set aside.
2. In a large deep skillet, melt one tablespoon of the butter with the pepper over medium heat. Sauté for abiut 1 minute, until you can smell the pepper. Add 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water and the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and stir until the butter is melted and the sauce starts to thicken a bit, about 1 minute.
3. Add the pasta and veggies, and all the cheese and toss with a large spoon, allowing the cheese to melt and coat the pasta. if the pasta seems dry, add more of the reserved pasta water. Stir well and taste. Add salt if needed. Serve immediately as is or topped with more cheese.
Note: Recipe adapted from Dinner: Changing the Game by Melissa Clark. I tinkered around with some of the ingredients and lightened things up a bit.