It’s almost embarrassing just how much I ate during our recent trip to Europe. With any vacation, I feel like what Julian and I do most is eat and drink. In our defense, though, there is a lot of walking involved whenever we travel, so the eating and the drinking is very much well-deserved and justified. Although we ate so much and tried so many different dishes at various restaurants, I can with certainty tell you that the best meal (as a whole) we had was in London, at Ceviche. The restaurant has a cookbook of the same name, which I never even knew and I own a copy of the book and I love it because of the tiled cover and I just never had a clue. It’s Peruvian food turned up, and it’s delicious. They have a grilled octopus dish that I went crazy for, so much so that I made us order it twice. One right after the other. I’ve never done that before at any restaurant.
I had a favorite dish in every city we visited, mainly because I can’t help but pick favorites in everything that goes on in my life. My favorite sweater, my favorite pair of shoes, my favorite post on the blog (which changes all the time), my favorite movie, and so on and so on. So I didn’t waste any time in picking favorites throughout our trip. My favorite dish in London, was hands down that grilled octopus dish I just mentioned. My favorite in Paris was a tomato and avocado tartine. In Venice it was an arancini (fried rice balls). In Florence, we had a warm seafood salad that was to die for. And in Rome, I had two favorites. The first was a Potato and Sausage Pizza Bianca, which I shared earlier in the week. My second favorite dish, was this Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe. Which is a black peppery cheesy spaghetti dish. It’s the easiest thing to make with like five ingredients that you probably already have on hand, and yet it was the most delicious pasta I’ve ever eaten. How can something so simple and basic taste to great?!
I wanted to recreate it for the blog so that we can all try it and eat it together, if you haven’t already. If you have tried it, then you know what I’m talking about. I’m a huge fan of black pepper, I’ll add it to anything and never look back. So I’m all for a dish who’s star of the show is black pepper. I felt like during this trip, mainly in Italy, it was hard for me to get vegetables in. Everywhere you looked it was bread, cheese, pasta and more bread. I longed for veggies, or even a piece of lettuce as a garnish, just so I can have something healthy. Most of the time, I’d look at a menu and pick out a vegetable and order it just so that I can assure my body that I was still eating veggies. Most of the time I would make us order broccolini, because it’s my favorite vegetable, and it was always served simply, sautéed with garlic and lemon. I feel like this dish goes so well with sautéed broccolini on the side, so I thought why not share it? Let’s Cheers to the Weekend with a simple meal that the whole family will love.
Start by brining a large pot of cold water to a boil, season with salt, and cook the bucatini to al dente, according to the package directions. Reserve about 3/4 cup of the cooking liquid and then drain.
**Note: Whenever you boil water for pasta or boiling potatoes in water, you always want to make sure you start off with cold water. Never use hot water thinking you’ll make the water boil faster that way. I mean, it will boil faster, but your pasta (or potatoes) won’t cook evenly and then you’ll end up with a weird texture. That’s no good. Make sure the water is always cold!**
Set the pasta to the side, and the let’s focus on the broccolini that’ll be served alongside the spaghetti. In a skillet, sauté the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes in a little bit of olive oil for about a minute or two. Keep stirring it so that the garlic doesn’t burn.
Add the blanched broccoli rabe, season with salt and pepper and sauté on medium-high until just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.
**Note: Save the lemon juice for right before you’re about to serve the broccoli rabe. I find that if you add it too soon, it’ll become bitter and cook off too much.**
Now back to the main dish. In a large skillet, combine the pecorino Romano, parmesan and black pepper with enough cold water to a make a very thick and chunky paste. Add the cooked pasta along with the olive oil and half of the reserved cooking liquid. Toss together and cook on low, until the cheese has melted and a sauce has formed. Add as much of the remaining cooking liquid as necessary to create a thick sauce that coats all of the pasta evenly.
Give it a taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly, adding salt if you need any or more black pepper if it isn’t peppery enough for you. Sometimes life isn’t peppery enough for me…just saying.
**Note: I didn’t add salt because I find that the cheese have enough saltiness for me, plus we cooked the pasta in salt water and that usually all balances out perfectly for me, but if you like more salt, by all means add some at this point.**
I love this dish because it’s so simple and very easy to put together. This is the kind of dish you make during the week, after work, when you don’t really feel like cooking. Or this is the dish you make on the weekends when all you want to do is party, but you gotta eat something quick. Or you want a no fuss no muss dinner and you already have these ingredients in your pantry…chances are you probably already do.
Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe is traditionally served just like that all by itself (sans broccolini, but a great addition if you ask me) but if you’re like me and need meat in your life, then have no fear. Try adding crumbled browned Italian sausage to the dish. I think that would be a nice balance of flavors without overpowering the dish.
I hope you all are enjoying these Cheers to the Weekend posts, as much as I’m enjoying posting them. If you’ve missed any Friday Cheers to the Weekends then be sure to click here to catch up! I’m working on creating a spot on the site to display them all so that they’re easily accessible to you guys, so stay tuned!
If you make this recipe, along with any other recipe from the site, be sure to snap a picture and share it on Instagram or Facebook and tag me and hashtag it with #CandidAppetite or #TheCandidAppetite. Once you start making these Cheers to the Weekend recipes, be sure to also tag it with #TCAweekend! I’ll be monitoring it all closely and share my favorites throughout! Happy Cooking!
- 1 pound bucatini pasta
- 1 1/2 cups finely grated pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for garnish
- 1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper, plus more for garnish
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound broccoli rabe
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Bring a large pot of cold water to a rolling boil. Season with plenty of salt and add the dried pasta. Cook until al dente, according to the box directions. Reserve about 3/4 cup of the pasta cooking water and then drain.
- In a large skillet, combine the cheeses, black pepper, and enough cold water to make a very thick paste. Add the pasta, olive oil, and half of the reserved cooking liquid to the pot. Cook over very low heat, tossing the pasta around, until the cheese has melted and the sauce has thickened, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add as much of the remaining cooking liquid as needed to create a thick sauce, coating all of the spaghetti.
- To make the broccoli rabe, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the broccoli rabe and cook until bright green, about 5 minutes. Blanche in ice cold water and drain.
- Set a large skillet over medium-high heat with the olive oil, garlic and crushed pepper flakes. Cook for about a minute to toast the garlic, and then add the broccoli rabe. Sauté, stirring often, until the broccoli has charred, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper. Add the lemon juice right at the end, before serving.
- Serve the cacio e pepe with grated cheese on top and black pepper for garnish, with the broccoli rabe on the side. Enjoy!
- Yield: 4 servings