Leah Cooks Cacio e Pepe (Pasta with Cheese and Pepper) from Gimme Some Oven
I know at this very moment you’re quite concerned about your “summer body” (whatever that is), and vowing to give up all pasta and doughnuts and everything else delicious in life for the next month just so you can fit into your swimsuit without being incredibly conscious of the way your cute little stomach roll flops over the top of your tankini bottom when you crouch down to sit beside the pool.
Oh, wait. You don’t do that?
I also know that you make mac and cheese “for the kids” and eat all the leftovers in a moment of carb-craving mania while standing over the pot with a wooden spoon in your hand hoping nobody decides she wants seconds.
You don’t know me.
Look: your stomach’s gonna flop a little. It’s really no big deal. Just eat the pasta already.
Pasta’s at least a once-a-week staple in our house, as I’m sure it is in yours, too, occasional pre-summer body anxiety notwithstanding. But here’s the thing: you know as well as I do that the best pasta in the world–the very best pasta–is what your kids would probably still eat every night of the week, if you’d let them: pasta with butter.
You know I’m right.
BUT WAIT. I can do you one even better: how about pasta with butter AND cheese? Like, a lot of it? But really good quality parmesan to make it not just awesome, but incredible and delicious? And what if that pasta is cooked in super salted water to give it flavor, then topped with tons and tons of ground pepper?
I know. I’m basically asking what it must be like to die and go to heaven, because I’m pretty sure heaven is a place filled with cacio e pepe.
Cacio e pepe: it’s Italian for cheese and pepper, and that’s the simple pasta recipe I’m delivering to your doorstep today. Make it by itself, or pair it with a big salad. Make it on a night when you have a ton of leftovers in your fridge, and serve it with some leftover grilled chicken and that Tupperware of steamed broccoli that no one was going to eat.
Fingers crossed you have enough leftovers. I’ll lend you my wooden spoon.
Cacio e Pepe
Doubled from Gimme Some Oven; Serves 4 (or, in our case, 2 adults and 3 children)
- 1 lb. pasta (spaghetti, linguini, or angel hair)
- 6 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 2 tsp. ground pepper (freshly cracked is best, but straight out of one of those little tins is fine, too)
- 2 2/3 cups freshly grated Parmesan or Parmesan-Pecorino cheese
In a large pot, heat water (only just enough to cover the pasta) to a boil, then salt generously (use lots more salt then you think is necessary–this will help flavor the final dish). Add pasta, then cook to just barely al dente. Reserve a cup of the pasta water and set aside, then drain off the rest.
While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the pepper, and cook for another minute or two. Carefully whisk in the reserved pasta water. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for 3 minutes. Quickly whisk in the grated cheese until it melts–if it starts to clump, don’t worry: it will melt when you add the sauce to the pasta.
Add the sauce to the pasta and, using tongs, combine the two. Make sure to break up any clumps of cheese until it is even distributed throughout the dish.
Serve, with extra pepper to taste.