A few days ago, while I was wondering why I had bought 5 pounds of dried black beans during my crisis grocery trip (conducted on the same day my office sent me home to work for the foreseeable future), Rachel’s Instagram post about the Underground Cookie Club popped up in my feed. I should note here, that they have been on my list of places to eat for way longer than I care to admit. I was somewhere around day 20 of staying at home, and sent Rachel a text telling her how unfair it was that she was posting all these gorgeous food photos of restaurants where I couldn’t go! I mentioned that she needed someone to talk about the joy of cooking at home, and give people recipes to make and eat during this crazy period that we find ourselves in. I’m here, getting ready to talk about cooking from your pantry, so you all know how that conversation went down.
Hi, my name is Kristina. I love Lake Michigan, chocolate ice cream, a good book , and truffle oil. I’ll be dropping in from time to time to share recipes you can make at home (because we can’t eat out every night) in a series called Stay at Home (and make…). I’ll be kicking off that series with some posts I affectionately call the Pandemic Pantry. If you are like me, you’ve been shopping a few times since the world turned upside down. You probably had a moment of weakness and bought something, or a quantity of something, you never would have before this started (ahem, the aforementioned 5lbs of black beans). I’m here to help you figure out what to do with that food that you bought to stock your pantry. To help you make something easy, delicious, and not overly time consuming – because you need that time to watch Netflix.
For the first installment of Pandemic Pantry I’ve made cacio e pepe, which translated means “cheese and pepper.” CHEESE…and….pepper. Do I have your attention now?
Cacio e pepe is the most basic and delicious of pasta dishes. It takes just five ingredients (that includes the pasta water), and will go from pantry to table (or lap, in front of Nexflix) in about 20 minutes. This pasta also pairs brilliantly with a crisp glass of wine, and a fresh green salad, and bread for a super easy, yet impressive date night. Or can be used as a foundation to mix in all manner of yummy things you have hanging out in your pantry or refrigerator (shredded chicken? Yes. Fresh greens? Yes. Roasted veggies? Yes. Crunchy toasted nuts? Heck, yah!).
The thing that makes this pasta so easy, and the perfect thing for Pandemic Pantry, is that it only requires a few ingredients that I bet you have in your kitchen right now.
- Pasta –Any shape will do, but I love De Cecco’s square spaghetti . I was out of it this time, so I used some cavatappi I had in the pantry.
- Parmesan Cheese – You can use fresh grated, or some from the shaker container that’s so great on top of pizza. I’ve also made this with a range of blue cheeses, and it is delicious and complex, a completely different take on this dish. Cheddar, and mozzarella will not work.
- Pepper – Whatever you’ve got is great. I keep rainbow peppercorns in a grinder by my stove and they are perfect for this. This pasta will really let a flavorful pepper shine.
- Salt – For salting pasta water. Any type will do. My pantry is always stocked with Morton’s fine Sea Salt.
- Water – yep, basic tap water for boiling pasta, that combined with the salt and starch from the pasta will become an essential building block for your sauce.
The magic of this pasta is that after you have cooked your pasta in salted water, you are going to make sauce from that cooking water, so save a cup of it before you drain the pasta. Now, put the pasta back in the pan with the cheese and a few tablespoons of water per serving of pasta. Turn the heat back onto low and stir. It may seem super watery at first, don’t worry, it will thicken up. Keep stirring until a thin sauce forms (it will thicken a bit more as it cools). Turn off the heat and add pepper to taste. Put it in a bowl that makes you feel fancy, pour yourself a glass of wine, and find something funny on Netflix. You earned it!
Cacio e pepe
1 Serving (multiply as many times as you need)
2 oz (or ¾ cup) dried pasta
¼ cup Parmesan Cheese – finely grated
Ground Pepper to taste
Bring water to a boil in saucepan. Add salt (2 tsp per gallon of water). Stir until salt has dissolved. Add pasta and cook according to time recommendations on the box, until al dente.
Remove approximately a cup of cooking water with a heat safe cup. Drain pasta and return to pan.
Add 1-2 tablespoons of cooking water per serving of pasta back to the pan, add cheese. Stir.
Return pan to very low heat, and stir continuously until sauce begins to thicken and no lumps of cheese are left.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in pepper to taste. Serve in your favorite bowl or plate.
This pasta doesn’t reheat well, so it’s best to make just enough for a single meal.
This pasta is perfect in its simplicity but is also a great jumping off point to add veggies or proteins. Have fun playing with what you have in your pantry or refrigerator.