Welcome To My Lunchtime Pasta Project

Where a cacio e pepe frittata is just the beginning

I wouldn’t say I intentionally started a lunchtime pasta project, but I was missing pasta — for some reason, I hadn’t had any in a little while — and it just happened. I’m not sure why it would ever stop. 

It began with the need for something fast, and with no time and plenty of pecorino, I produced some cacio e pepe. That led, the next day, to one of my favorite dishes of the last couple of weeks, a pasta frittata with a base of leftover cacio e pepe and the stems and some of the tops of some early season flowering kale. (Chop stems; cook with flowers in about a half-inch of not-too-salted water, right in the saute pan for a few minutes. Add olive oil and a cup or two of pasta; toss a bit. Add beaten eggs and cook as any frittata. If your cacio e pepe is good, it will need almost no seasoning. You can imagine the variations on this, but any cooked green will work.)

Wednesday’s lunch employed some of last summer’s frozen tomatoes, defrosted in a hurry in the microwave, and turned into sauce with olive oil, a lot of garlic, and a chile, all cooked a bit before adding the tomatoes. (I am increasingly convinced, insistent even, that the best way to preserve tomatoes is whole, in Ziploc bags), At the end, I added some of these brilliant salted capers from Gustiamo, rinsed a bit first. I could criticize myself for not removing the tomato skins —  that definitely would’ve been an upgrade —  but I was busy and hungry and didn’t have the time. Sometimes we compromise; the dish was yum. 

The fourth and final used the leaves from that same kale. I cooked those in a little water as per the first recipe, then added oil, along with raisins, walnuts, garlic, and anchovies (also salted, also from Gustiamo; I wrote about those here). I sauteed this until the greens were really tender and everything was glossy, then added pasta cooking water as necessary to make it saucy. Man, that was a winner.  

This was all last week; I’m not sure what this week will bring, but there is some sort of ratatouille in the freezer that looks promising.


Cacio e Pepe

Makes: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes

This is one of the simplest and best pasta recipes I can think of. Rather than cooking a sauce, you just vigorously stir everything together in a big bowl. Good all the time (even for breakfast), but especially at midnight. 

Ingredients

  • Salt

  • 1 ½ cups finely grated pecorino Romano, plus more for dusting the completed dish

  • 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper, plus more for finishing the dish

  • ¾ pound tonnarelli or other long pasta like linguine or spaghetti

  • Good olive oil

Instructions

1. Put a pot of salted water on to boil. In a large bowl, combine the cheeses and black pepper; mash with just enough cold water to make a thick paste. Spread the paste evenly in the bowl.

2. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta. The second before it is perfectly cooked (taste it frequently once it begins to soften), use tongs to quickly transfer it to the bowl, reserving a cup or so of the cooking water. Stir vigorously to coat the pasta, adding a teaspoon or two of olive oil and a bit of the pasta cooking water to thin the sauce if necessary. The sauce should cling to the pasta and be creamy but not watery.

3. Plate and dust each dish with additional pecorino and pepper. Serve immediately.

Recipe published in The New York Times