The kids asked me the other day to name my favorite food, and I totally blanked. I had about ten different options swimming around my head, all foods that I don’t make at home–tom yum soup, risotto, even a really good slice of cheese pizza …
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.
David turned Still Younger Than I Am last month, and he requested strawberry shortcake for dessert, but not actually a cake, but maybe cupcakes, or something like cupcakes, he said. He’s so lucky I can speak David. I went with strawberry shortcake cupcakes, which was …
You guys, I keep trying to make breakfast happen for my family. My kids, if given their druthers (they’re usually not because “Ugh Mom why do you hafta make us like HEALTHY STUFF??”), would much rather wolf down a couple of bowls of Lucky Charms …
I really have to put more forethought into the food posts I put here for you. I know this. You don’t deserve a terrible shot of my dinner pizza with the weird tendril of cheese goo on the top of it taken under the golly-awful light of a bunch of LED kitchen bulbs. I know. You just don’t deserve it.
And yet, here you go.
I’ll work on it.
I am trying *desperately* to simplify our dinners around here, because even though I say I love cooking–and I do–there are so many nights where we end up getting take out/stopping by a local restaurant (there’s both a brewery and a Mexican restaurant a mile a way from our house. It’s too convenient, you guys. Too convenient) for dinner simply because we’re overwhelmed/stressed/busy/lazy.
I know you know the drill. And I also know that you, too, weep a little bit when you look at your bank statement and realize you could’ve paid for a trip to Cabo with all the money you’ve dropped at El Rodeo last month.
Or if not paying for Cabo, then maybe at least a gym membership. Because: enchiladas.
So, in upcoming weeks–if I can get my druthers together enough to remember to take a photo of dinner–I’ll post some freezer meals I’ve been doing lately that gets us through at least a couple of those don’t-want-to-cook-life-is-hard nights. The prep is a pain in the hiney, but being able to look in the freezer and say, “Hey, let’s do pot pie for dinner!” is so worth all the chopped onions that make me cry and mess up my glasses.
In the meantime, I give you chicken parm pizza, which was an insanely huge hit among the 41-and-under crowd. I can’t believe how well this went over. And the best part? It was made with leftovers.
Okay, here’s the first step: One night I made an easy cheater chicken parmesan for dinner: I took some skinless chicken breasts, pounded them thin (it’s gross. For any other lifelong vegetarians who are currently sidestepping the wagon, gird yourselves). Anyway: I pounded them thin, then brushed them with a little extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkled both sides with salt and pepper, and threw them under the broiler to cook (about 10 minutes per side, until they’re nice and browned and have an internal temperature of 165°). After that, I topped each with a little store-bought no-additive pasta sauce, sprinkled on some wheat panko crumbs, then topped those with freshly grated mozzarella and some shredded basil. I put the whole kit-and-caboodle back under the broiler for a minute or two until the mozzarella started to brown.
The kids loved that meal, too. I AM WINNING. We chopped up the leftover chicken, then stored it in the fridge.
So here’s where the parm pizza came into play. David had picked up some whole wheat naan at Wegman’s, which gave me the idea. Oh! And do you remember when I told you how I’d fallen in love with grocery delivery? Well, I figured out pretty quickly that on top of the annual service fee and delivery tip (I’m okay with that part), the store was up-charging the food purchases so that I ended up paying forty dollars extra per grocery trip. With fee, and tip? That’s about eighty dollars extra per grocery trip. So now, David is my grocery delivery person, like in the Olden Days of Yore.
It’s okay. He’s cuter and I don’t have put on a bra to greet him at the door.
All I did for the pizzas was take the naan, top it with leftover pasta sauce, add a thin layer of baby spinach, then top that with the chopped chicken, grated mozzarella, some shaved parmesan, and a little more basil (using up all the leftovers, baby). I put it under the broiler until the cheese was all bubbly and browned, and then 5 minutes later it’d disappeared from my table and down the gobs of my children.
EXCUSE ME WHILE I RUN MY VICTORY LAP AROUND THE KITCHEN.
If you’re a vegetarian, I might try this with a little tempeh instead of the chicken–then report back to me to say how you like it because I miss you, vegetarians. But if you’re not, here you go…
Chicken Parm Pizza
Serves 1, but just double/quadruple/etc. as necessary
- 1 piece whole-wheat naan (or similar flatbread)
- 1/4 c. store-bought pasta sauce
- 1/4 c. packed baby spinach
- 1/3 c. leftover chicken parmesan, chopped
- 2 oz. fresh mozzarella, roughly sliced or shredded
- a few strips of shaved parmesan OR 1 Tbs. freshly grated parmesan
- 1-2 Tbs. basil, roughly shredded
Spread the sauce over your slice of naan, then add a thin layer of baby spinach. Top with chopped chicken, then mozzarella, then parmesan. Sprinkle basil over everything. Broil for 3-5 minutes or until the cheese is browned and bubbling. (You’ll have just enough time to throw a quick salad together.) Let rest at room temperature for about 5 minutes, then slice and enjoy the sight of your children devouring a meal that took you all of 10 minutes to make.
Note: Measurements are an estimate. Always use toppings, including sauce, sparingly when making a pizza like this. Anything more will make your pizza soggy and gross and then you’ll wonder what’s wrong with me that I thought this delicious. (It is. Will you just trust me, already?)
This isn’t really a recipe, you guys. And I know any good nutritionist will tell you that a proper breakfast has green things (heretofore called “vegetables”) in it, but…well, it’s still my breakfast. Every. single. day. I’ll double up on the green things at lunch, …
Here’s a lunch recipe for you if, like me, you are are a delightful weirdo who enjoys Food in Bowls. I’m the only person in my family who likes food this way: eaten from a big vessel, all piled together, like a salad but more …