The Traditional Pasta Cacao e Pepe
We’ve been rewatching Somebody Feed Phil with Phil Rosenthal and recently came to his Venice episode and binge watched Stanley Tucci’s Searching for Italy. During Tucci’s Rome show, he visited Japanese chef Kotaro Noda’s Bistro 64. Chef Noda made the classic Roman dish, Cacio e Pepe.
While we were watching it in the morning, my mouth was watering and I knew what we were having for dinner. I adore pasta (and actually most carb rich foods). To me a bowl of pasta is comfort food therefore, I don’t need an excuse to make it. It took me a couple replays of the segment to get the ingredients and technique down.
A Humble Dish
This is a truly simple and humble dish with six ingredients… seven if you count the pasta water. The stars of the dish are freshly ground pepper, Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses. In 15-minutes you could have this meal.
Looking for another quick and simple meal? Try a bread salad from Tuscany, Panzanella.
- 8 oz Spaghetti
- 1-2 cups salted pasta water
- 3-4 Tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon freshly grown black pepper
- 1 cup finely grated Pecorino
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
- - Cook spaghetti according to the directions adding a generous helping of salt to the water.
- - Drain pasta reserving 1-2 cups of pasta water.
- - Melt butter in large pan stirring in the pepper toasting for a minute.
- - Add a cup of the pasta water and bring to a simmer.
- - Add pasta then slowly add in cheeses tossing together until a "creamy" sauce forms. If the pasta is too dry then incorporate more of the pasta water.
- - Finish the dish with more freshly ground pepper.
Luxuriously Pasta Carbonara
Pasta Carbonara was something I always ordered out at an Italian restaurant. It seemed so complicated — a dish I couldn’t possibly make myself at home — silly me. Of course, I could make Pasta Carbonara! I make bread and pastries. Those are tricky to prepare well.
Confidence with Cream
I had nothing to fret about regarding this recipe. Anyone can do it. It is just cream, egg yolks, Parmesan cheese, and pasta water.
Why was I so afraid? No clue. It does take practice to get the consistency right. It is simple. And quick.
Sausage or Bacon
You can make this recipe the more traditional way with bacon. Or you can make it with sausage. Depending on how I feel, I use spicy or mild sausage. That goes for how I prepare the sausage. Sometimes I take the sausage out of the casings frying it up that way or cook them whole then slicing them placing them on top of the pasta.
It is worth trying to find pappardelle. I prefer how the sauce takes to it.
So you can now skip the restaurant and make Pasta Carbonara at home.
Need more pasta recipes? Visit the pasta section of Well Worn Apron.
Pasta Carbonara with Italian Sausage
- 8 ounces pappardelle or fettuccine
- 1 cups frozen peas
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 4 Italian sausage links - spicy or mild (about 1 pound)
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup half-and-half or whipping cream
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan (2 ounces), plus more for serving
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions, adding the peas during the last minute of cooking. Reserve ½ cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta and peas, and return them to the pot.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the sausages, turning occasionally, until cooked through about 10-15 minutes.
- In a mid-sized bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, half-and-half or cream, Parmesan, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
- Add the egg mixture and reserved cooking water to the pasta and peas in the pot.
- Cook over low heat, tossing gently, until the sauce is slightly thickened and coats the pasta. Serve with the sausage and additional cheese.
Simple Savory Spinach Bacon Ravioli
Quick and simple doesn’t necessarily mean calling for pizza delivery (though sometimes that is a nice treat). You can make a quick delicious meal that is good on the wallet and the waistline. Spinach Bacon Ravioli is one of those meals that can be made in a jiffy but tastes luxurious.
Spinach Bacon Ravioli is a 15-minute meal. Well, 30-minute if you count stopping at the grocery store to pick up the ingredients. Ok, I’m pretty quick in the grocery store so it may take you a little longer. The ingredient list is short: ravioli, bacon, whole garlic, spinach, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. That’s it.
On The Go
I usually have bacon and ravioli in the freezer. Garlic and lemons are in the fridge. So spinach is what I’m stopping for in the grocery store if I haven’t thought ahead. That said I tried to stock my veggie bin with veg we like, and spinach is one of them. With my schedule going in different directions, I am trying to meal plan more and do a week’s shopping in one go. Am I successful? Not really, but I keep trying. For me, the key is to have essential ingredients that I can create different meals on the fly, depending on what I feel like or the time I have. And time is something I have a limited supply of these days.
Let’s get back to the dish. Super simple. With seven ingredients – five if you exclude the salt and pepper – you can make a fancy restaurant meal at home. I use refrigerated cheese ravioli, but frozen works just as well. Don’t limit yourself to cheese ravioli; get creative. When I’m preparing the bacon, instead of wiping out the pan to cook the garlic and spinach, I use the bacon fat. Why get rid of that super flavor? You can swap out the bacon fat for olive oil, but I say use the fat. Just gives everything a wonderful rich flavor. And it isn’t like there is an inch of fat in the pan, more like a coating. Just enjoy it. (Don’t do it with every meal, every day, OK?)
Looking for more pasta dishes? Visit the pasta section.
- 1 package ravioli
- 6-8 slices bacon
- 2 gloves garlic, sliced thinly
- 10 oz container baby spinach torn
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- Boil then cook ravioli to package directions.
- While water is setting to boil, cut bacon into sections using a kitchen scissors then cook in pre-heated pan over medium-high heat.
- When bacon is almost crispy, add sliced garlic cooking until brown.
- Add spinach, salt, and pepper stirring until spinach is wilted.
- Add in lemon juice stirring.
- Drain ravioli arranging on plate topping with spinach bacon mixture.
Creamy Parmesan Gnocchi with Kale
Creamy Parmesan Gnocchi is one of the only recipe where I can get my guys to eat kale without faces of pure disgust. The menfolk in my house are not fond of kale or any other bitter greens regardless of how it is prepared. You can simmer those greens with pork, butter, and salt for years and it still isn’t tasty enough. So this is a challenge since dark leafy greens are good for you.
While I like all sorts of greens, be it not often prepared in a healthy manner outside of spinach, I want to get more greens in my family’s diet outside of salads. In the summer, salads are wonderful, but in the winter something warm and hearty is needed.
Fits the Bill
This is where Creamy Parmesan Gnocchi fits the bill. It is a one-pot meal with simple ingredients. Outside of kale and maybe gnocchi – and I’ll come to that in a minute – are pantry items. All it is veg broth, minced garlic, milk, butter, white beans, and chunk Parmesan cheese. My pantry has an array of canned white beans such as Northern White, Cannellini, and butter beans. Use whatever you have in your cabinets. The final texture may change, but do what works best for you. Shock your pantry with bottled minced garlic and veg broth. I always have “real” butter on hand to cook and bake with in my kitchen. Don’t skimp on the Parmesan cheese. Buy a chunk and grate it yourself. One it is cheaper and two it is real cheese.
You can buy various types of gnocchi today. I admit there are three packages of potato gnocchi in my cabinets along with penne pasta. I decided last winter I was going to make homemade gnocchi. As I continue to evaluate my relationship with processed foods, I look to make my food from wholesome ingredients. I have to say that homemade gnocchi is amazing compared to the store-made. Just a level of fresh and taste. While it is simple, there is a process in making them well. If you want to make homemade gnocchi then go here.
This a family favorite even with the kale in it, but when kale isn’t available then I use spinach. It is a quick vegetarian meal for a busy weekday night.
- - 1 tablespoon olive oil
- - 4 teaspoons minced garlic
- - 2 cups veggie broth
- - 1 cup milk
- - 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- - Salt and pepper, to taste
- - 16 ounces gnocchi
- - 3 cups chopped fresh kale
- - 1 (15 oz) can white beans, drained
- - ? cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
- - Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat.
- - Add garlic; stir constantly for 1 minute until fragrant.
- - Add broth, milk, butter and a few dashes of salt and pepper.
- - Add gnocchi; stir to combine.
- - Cook, stirring often, 3 to 5 minutes until gnocchi is soft and cooked through.
- - Stir in kale, beans and Parmesan cheese.
- - Cook until kale is just wilted.
- - Serve with more grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.
Nothing Beats Homemade Gnocchi
Being Irish with the DNA test to show I have no southern European genes, pasta came out of a box and the sauce from a jar growing up. Fresh pasta was unknown. In the late 70s and early 80s, my mom learned how to make tomato sauce and meatballs from our Italian-American neighbors who wanted to share their love of food with us. That was the beginning of the love of Italian food.
Fast forward 30 or so years, I got the nerve to make pasta. I have been making my own sauces for years so it shouldn’t be too much of a leap for me to make my own pasta. Gnocchi is a versatile pasta working with many different sauces and soups. It is a potato dumpling.
The Gnocchi Process
Gnocchi is easy to make if you follow the recipe. There is a process to this humble food. Make it a family affair getting kids in involved in making their dinner.
Here is the low down on making them:
- The potatoes are key. Boil them with their skins on until fork tender about 20 minutes. This helps the potato not to absorb access water. Remember dry potatoes are good and water potatoes are bad. Over-boiling the potatoes causes them to become mushy.
- Invest in a potato ricer. I wish I did. I mashed my potatoes and they weren’t fine enough leaving the gnocchi lumpy.
- When you go knead the dough, be careful not to over-knead. Also be careful at this point of adding flour. By adding too much flour will give you hard gnocchi.
Maybe I will attempt to make another type of pasta.
Gnocchi Making in Photos
- - 2 1/2 lbs. of potato, approx. 4 lg. potatoes
- - 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup or more for working dough
- - 1/2 tsp. salt
- - 1 egg
- - Boil potatoes with their skins on a large pot with just enough water to cover them, boil potatoes with their skins on for about 20 minutes or until fork tender. Don't over-boiling will cause potatoes to become mushy and too wet.
- - Drain the potatoes well allowing them to cool in a colander.
- - Peel the potatoes removing any brown spots that might be below the skin.
- - Using a potato ricer, rice the peeled potatoes.
- - Mound riced potato on the middle of a wooden board or a clean, dry countertop. Top with flour.
- - Sprinkle with salt.
- - Make a well using your hands, scoop out the center of your mound.
- - Add the egg into the center of the well the beat the egg with a fork.
- - Incorporate ingredients using the fork, slowly start to pull in flour and potato to mix ingredients.
- - Begin to form the dough using your.
- - Knead the dough by pulling together ingredients and knead to form dough. Be careful not to over-knead. Be weary of adding flour at this point. Too much flour will give you hard gnocchi.
- - Shape the dough into a long, wide rectangle for cutting.
- - Cut dough into 8-10 pieces, about 4 inches long.
- - Roll into ropes by gently pushing with fingers spread.
- - Cut dough ropes using a pastry cutter or non-serrated knife into 1-inch pieces then cut ends at an angle.
- - Ridges or indents using a fork to create ridges or indent gently with your thumb.
- - Cook the gnocchi until they float to the top in a pot of boiling water for about 2-4 minutes. Gently remove them with a slotted spoon, drain very well. Toss them in a saucepan with your favorite sauce and cook together for about 2 minutes.
Simple Pasta Salad for the Summer
It is the dead of summer where there is no escaping the heat and humidity. Too hot to grill even to grill. No one really wants to turn on the stove especially in the afternoon. I am no exception. Even boiling water feels too much. Making this simple pasta salad is worth turning on the stove for it though. I like to make the pasta salad in the morning while the air conditioning is still running before it switches over to day mode. Making it early allows the flavors to blend together by dinner.
l keep this salad as simple as possible. I use whatever smallish pasta I have in the pantry. In the summertime, I usually have fresh tomatoes and seedless cucumbers on hand. I do not usually have bottled salad dressings outside of real blue cheese dressing. I prefer to make my own such as Buttermilk-Basil and Basic Italian vinaigrette. The flavor is so much better and fresh tasting. Just takes a couple of minutes longer than it does to shake the bottle. It is also good to finely grate fresh parmesan cheese. Worth the extra effort on both counts. Really.
This simple pasta salad is good as a side to grilled meats and seafood as a stand alone meal.
- 1 16oz box of small pasta such as elbow
- 1 seedless cucumber, sliced and quartered
- 6 tomatoes
- 1 bunch green onions, chopped
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- Basic Italian Vinaigrette
- Boil water of pasta and cook according to directions on the box and drain setting aside.
- Chop cucumbers, tomatoes, and green onions placing in a large bowl.
- Sprinkle Italian seasoning into the grated parmesan cheese.
- Mix pasta with vegetables then add cheese and Italian vinaigrette.
- Chill for at least two hours.
- Serves a huge crowd and/or many lunches for days to come.