Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Put some pep in your step
How were everyone’s holidays? We had a lovely time. The Christmas season was filled with long walks in the park and an awful lot of good brown liquor. I also spent a fair amount of time leafing through the latest additions to my cookbook arsenal, “The Art of Living According to Joe Beef" and Thomas Keller’s “Ad Hoc at Home.” It was good.
There’s one part of the holidays that doesn’t get mentioned often and that’s the lull between Boxing Day and the day before New Year’s Eve. That’s about the time when the family you were so happy to see on December 24 start getting on your nerves, when the last crumbs of shortbread have been dusted off your shirt, and when the wonderful dinner that left you stuffed and content in the soft glow of Christmas Day is joylessly re-heated in Tupperware containers in the microwave.
In the course of fighting through such a funk myself last week, I whipped up a batch of the Roman classic cacio e pepe and in the process discovered a new favourite dish. As I worked my way through a second serving, I started to wonder: is it ridiculous that I have never made this basic four-ingredient (five, if you count water) recipe before? Have people been talking about this and leaving me out of the loop, like that one guy at the party who hasn’t watched The Wire? I feel like something this simple and tasty should be in everyone’s toolbox, even the most useless home cook.
I used the recipe from Bon Apetit which calls for a whole lot of butter and two varieties of cheese, which I understand is a bit nontraditional. I can’t complain, though my future cardiologist might have a few choice words for me.
Cacio e pepe
6 oz. pasta (such as egg tagliolini, bucatini, or spaghetti)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed, divided
1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
3/4 cup finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino
Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a 5-qt. pot. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup pasta cooking water.
While that’s happening, melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.
Add pepper and cook, swirling pan, until toasted, about 1 minute.
Add 1/2 cup reserved pasta water to skillet and bring to a simmer. Add pasta and remaining butter. Reduce heat to low and add Grana Padano, stirring and tossing with tongs until melted. Remove pan from heat; add Pecorino, stirring and tossing until cheese melts, sauce coats the pasta, and pasta is al dente. (Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry.) Transfer pasta to warm bowls and serve.