Cacio e Pepe & Welcome to the Neighborhood!
Has it really been 23 days since my last post?!? “Bad blogger! Tsk tsk tsk!” (as I scold myself and wiggle my index finger from side to side). It has been quite a frenetic month with packing and moving and unpacking again. But we’re happy to finally sit back and enjoy our new home!
So where do I begin? Ummm duh! How about the fabulous adult-sized kitchen we’ve been upgraded to?! Yes, I’m seriously contemplating changing my blog header to “From Our Regular-Sized Kitchen in the Big Apple” but it doesn’t have the same ring to it. You can’t imagine how tickled to pieces I am about having a bona fide gas stove with…wait for it… FOUR ranges!!! WOO HOO times fifty! And did I mention that I now get a grown-up oven too? Goodbye toaster oven! And I get an actual countertop to do all my prep work. No more balancing act with a chopping board on top of my sink! And speaking of sink, it’s actually large enough to fit more than two dishes!
Needless to say, neither of us miss our old kitchen AT ALL but we will never forget the little engine that could…
***pardon the piss poor quality of this photo as it was snapped with a camera phone
Every little morsel contained in my blog (prior to today, of course) was a product of this wee little kitchen with two electric ranges, a toaster oven and about 2 feet of standing room. Whenever one of my recipes didn’t quite work out as I planned, I always blamed this little fella’. Now I’ll have to come up with a different excuse.
In case you still didn’t receive the memo: We LOVE our new home! Tons of natural light streaming in from the windows which means I’ll be taking full advantage of that in my photography. It became such a chore to set up my mini studio with all the lights each time I wanted to take some pictures. Now I can simply set it on the table or on the window sill and voilà!
Now on to the actual culinary musing…
There are ten kabillion reasons why our new neighborhood is awesome and one of them is the super duper close proximity to Little Italy. Still a few blocks north of the madness but definitely within arm’s reach of the best Italian specialty shop, Di Palo Selects. I was on a mission yesterday to hunt down the most authentic ingredients to make a classic cacio e pepe and I found it all under this delicious little roof. Tonnarelli? Check. Cacio de Roma? Check. Superb quality pecorino romano? Check. Culinary advice from a hot shot chef? Check.
As I discussed my valiant attempt to create this Roman dish with the burly man behind the counter, a fellow customer piped in with his thick Italian accent. He then proceeded to give me step by step instructions to a perfect cacio e pepe. As it turns out, he’s the chef and proprietor of Emporio and Aurora in Manhattan. And as an added coincidence, it was just last weekend that we attempted to have dinner at Emporio but the wait was too long. Upon hearing this, the chef handed me his business card with a special V.I.P. invite to his restaurant. Score!
So here’s a few tidbits:
Tonnarelli – this small square-shaped egg noodle is the classic pasta used in cacio e pepe. If you can’t find tonnarelli, you can also substitute with spaghetti.
Cacio – the Italian word for cheese, this is one of the main components to this dish. A good quality pecorino romano has a very intense salty flavor so no additional salt should be added. The addition of cacio de roma tones down the saltiness of the pecorino and adds a creamy texture to the sauce. It can be omitted if you can’t find it.
Pepe – the Italian word for pepper and the obvious other component. It’s important to toast the coarsely cracked pepper in the hot olive oil which is what gives cacio e pepe its distinct flavor.
Hopefully I’ve done justice to this Roman classic. Thanks to Saveur magazine for the recipe!
|1||lb. tonnarelli or spaghetti|
|4||Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil|
|2||tsp freshly cracked black pepper, plus more to taste|
|1||cup finely grated pecorino romano|
|1||cup cacio de roma (cut in very small cubes)|
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook al dente (tonnarelli cooks fairly quickly, about 5 minutes). Meanwhile, Heat olive oil in a large skillet and add cracked pepper. Roast pepper in the oil until fragrant (approximately 2 minutes).
- Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and drain the rest of the pasta. Keep warm. Next, add the pasta water to the skillet (be careful, as this will cause a bit of smoke and sizzle!). Bring to a quick boil and add the cheeses. To emulsify, use a whisk and vigorously mix the cheese until melted. Add the warm pasta noodles and combine with sauce thoroughly.
- Add more freshly cracked pepper to taste and garnish with pecorino romano. Serves 4.