Cacio e Pepe & Welcome to the Neighborhood!

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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!

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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…
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***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.
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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 voilĂ !

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Now on to the actual culinary musing…
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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.

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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!

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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!
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Ingredients:

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)
  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. Add more freshly cracked pepper to taste and garnish with pecorino romano. Serves 4.

19 Responses to “Cacio e Pepe & Welcome to the Neighborhood!”

  • Joy Says:

    Welcome back Dhale :) How i’ve missed you — your new kitchen is AWESOME haha I can’t get over how tiny your old kitchen was! I am currently working under almost similar conditions and am ITCHING to move into my new place too….

    This dish looks awesome, Ive had a craving for pasta this week — Pecorino Romano is one of my favorite cheese.

  • tasteofbeirut Says:

    Congratulations on your new kitchen! I had my kitchen remodeled recently and love it so much I don’t know how I lived in the old one (’cause we do live in the kitchens don’t we?)
    Nice to live near Little Italy, live near there myself and loved it; this pasta is great, I never tried it and I want to now! Thanks so much!

  • Lindsay Says:

    I can’t believe you did all that amazing cooking in the last “kitchen” – WOW.

    I’m glad you’re getting settled and I can’t wait to see what you’ll whip up in a proper kitchen!

  • grace Says:

    glad you’re enjoying your new digs! if this simple yet elegant dish is any indication, we’ve lots of good stuff coming our way!

  • Tasty Trix Says:

    I can totally relate to how happy you must be with your new kitchen! You are going to go nuts with the gas stove, you can’t even compare it to cooking on any other surface. And the light!! Yay, you! Glad to have you back, great dish. Didn’t know that about toasting the pepper. And nice score with the VIP invite.

  • elizabeth Says:

    Congrats on the move and welcome back! I love, love LOVE cacio e pepe–it’s in that vaunted four-dish-repitoire that every Roman knows and generally has the items to make it on hand in their pantry.

    Another great cheese to try with this is a Sicilian table cheese that’s studded with black peppercorns–it’s delicious and takes to this preparation well–plus it requires less pepper grinding on your end. :-)

  • Dhale @ Culinary Musings Says:

    @Joy: You officially get the award for most frequently to comment first! Yay :) Glad to be back al though it was refreshing to cook and not have to take pictures all the time. When do you guys move into your new home? So excited for you guys! You’ll have a blast decorating!

  • Dhale @ Culinary Musings Says:

    @TasteofBeirut: Thanks! I completely agree, the household definitely revolves around the kitchen. That’s why I’m so glad to finally have a larger one to accommodate more than one person! It really is wonderful to live near Little Italy. Tons of great quality ingredients just around the corner :)

  • Dhale @ Culinary Musings Says:

    @Lindsay: I love how you put “kitchen” in quotation marks… because it really does barely classify as a kitchen. More like a walk-in pantry with a stove! Hopefully I can adjust to a full size kitchen and still cook some yummy meals!

  • Dhale @ Culinary Musings Says:

    @Grace: Hopefully I won’t disappoint you guys!

  • Dhale @ Culinary Musings Says:

    @Tasty Trix: I love love love the gas stove!!! It feels way more organic to cook with a flame. And don’t get me started on the full size oven! I’ve been broiling and baking everything! Now I can get a big fat piece of whole fish and bake it without worrying about ti fitting inside! And yes, the light! I never realized that natural light was such a commodity in the city but I will never take it for granted ever again!

  • Dhale @ Culinary Musings Says:

    @Elizabeth: I love being able to prepare great pasta with common pantry items. Living near Little Italy has definitely motivated me to experiment with more regional pasta dishes. I’ll have to track down the Sicilian cheese for my next cacio e pepe. And it’ll definitely be sooner rather than later!

  • skip to malou Says:

    hello dhale,
    i realized that i haven’t been here for awhile… it’s weird though that your new posts don’t go to my feed and dashboard anymore…hmmm.. and so all of a sudden today i just thought about you and somehow managed to click on the sidebar of my blog… so here i am.

    congratulations on your new house.. can’t wait to see pictures of it…
    your pasta sound so simple yet gives me a craving as in high craving level.
    looking forward to your future posts prepared in your new kitchen.
    xo,
    malou

  • Joo! Says:

    Thumbs up friend! Fresh pasta is the best.

  • Mimi Says:

    Wow, What a kitchen! I’m impressed that you could cook in it. No question, you will enjoy your new one.
    Great job on the pasta, one of my favorites.
    Mimi

  • Dhale @ Culinary Musings Says:

    @Malou: It’s been such a long time!!! Glad to be back and even happier to see you on here :) Finally getting back to the swing of things and definitely loving the new culinary atmosphere in our home!

  • Dhale @ Culinary Musings Says:

    @Joo: Happy face friend! Can’t get enough of fresh pasta but I have yet to make them myself.

  • Dhale @ Culinary Musings Says:

    @Mimi: The old kitchen was a challenge but it’s taught me plenty of lessons. I will never EVER take another kitchen for granted :)

  • Alan Says:

    The Savuer recipie varies from the one here.
    It does not add the cheese to the water and oil but after with pasta.
    I found their’s a little dry , I’ll try it the other way nex time.

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