Friday, February 26, 2010

Cacio e Pepe - Absolute Simplicity!

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe

Seriously folks, it doesn't get any easier than this!  Three ingredients is all it takes, but those three little elements combine to a big flavor combo.  This is a well-known Roman dish, and the real star is the well-aged Pecorino Romano cheese, so be sure to get the best quality chunk you can find.

You'll Need:
about 2/3 freshly grated Pecorino cheese
about 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Cook the spaghetti in salted water.  Reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water. 

Put the cheese in a bowl and add 1/4 cup of the cooking water.  Stir it with a fork until it becomes creamy.

Drain the spaghetti and add it to the bowl.  Toss well, adding the pepper and a little more cooking water if necessary to make it moist and creamy.

Serve, topped with an extra grating of cheese and another twist of the pepper grinder.

Photo Credit: Jon Sullivan / Public Domain Image

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Cicoria alla Materana

Matera-style Greens

Southern Italy has a way with vegetables.  They take fresh, simple ingredients and turn out a flavorful dish that allows the real taste of the veggies to come through.  Everything seems to burst with freshness there.  I have enjoyed a few variations of this cooked greens dish; some cooks like to add pancetta or a diced tomato to the mix so feel free to jazz it up at will.

Chicory is a popular cool weather vegetable there but harder to find in the US.  I substitute chard or mustard greens, or even spinach on occasion.

*Wash a bunch of greens and boil them in salted water for about ten minutes.  Drain well.  Set aside.
*Slice an onion and mince a clove of garlic.  Saute on low heat until tender and golden; you want to bring out the sweetness of the onion.
*Add the cooked greens to the pan and combine well.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a dash of red chile flakes. 
*Add about 1/2 cup of chicken or vegetable broth.  Partially cover and simmer until the broth is mostly evaporated.
*Sprinkle in about 1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese and grind some freshly-cracked pepper into it; serve.