Last Friday, Colin and I had dinner with my girl and her boy at her second home, Delfina. Just before I left for Italy, though, she said to me, "I don't think you're going to want to LOOK at Italian food for a while after you get back -- are you SURE you want to go to Delfina?"
Little did she know that, when I get back from a vacation, ALL I want to eat is the food from the places I've just been. It's a way for me to transition slowly back into the real world, as opposed to flinging myself in headfirst -- an approach which has been known to cause blinding headaches, go figure.
Plus, because I had taken this trip without C, there was a part of me that was happiest telling him all my stories over salumi and pasta, Brunello and Sangiovese. I guess it made it feel a little more... real.
So, the second night I was back, after dragging him all over town buying good Pecorino, and olio nuovo, I cooked us a very traditional Roman dish -- Cacio e Pepe. It's outstanding with a fairly simple Chianti Classico (we actually had a Rosso Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, which picked up the pepper notes nicely).
Pasta Cacio e Pepe (Pecorino & Pepper Pasta)
- 1lb broad pasta (calamarata, farfalle, papardelle)*
- 2 T cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
- 1 c. Pecorino Romano, freshly grated + more for garnish
- 2 T freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 t freshly ground white pepper
- Cook the pasta per the instructions in very well-salted water, leaving just the other side of al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water
- Drain the pasta, return to the pasta pot, and toss gently with the olive oil.
- Add in the cheese and pepper, stirring to coat; add cooking water back in as needed so that the "sauce" coats the pasta.
That's it. It's an incredibly simple, incredibly satisfying dish which is totally dependent on the quality of the ingredients. So make sure that cheese is freshly grated, and if you can find fresh egg pasta, all the better. And don't even bother trying to make this with ground pepper out of a tin -- it absolutely MUST be fresh-ground.
*Some recipes I've seen suggest spaghetti or linguine for this dish, but I was served it with pappardelle, and I think the greater surface area of these pastas and "meatier" texture is more pleasant.