Cacio e Pepe

This is a dream quick dish for me. Cheese and pepper… two of my favorite ingredients. This classic Italian recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit.

I have made it on a few occasions using both Barilla bucatini and DeCecco linguine fine, par cooking the pasta for 5 minutes. It is wonderful served with a simple green salad or roasted vegetables. Love it.

Yield: Serves 2 to 3

  • coarse salt
  • 8 oz pasta (such as egg tagliolini, bucatini, linguine fini, or spaghetti)
  • 3 T unsalted butter, cubed, divided
  • 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3/4 cup finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano
  1. Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a 5-qt. pot. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup pasta cooking water.
  2. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add pepper and cook, swirling pan, until toasted, about 1 minute.
  3. Add 1/2 cup reserved pasta water to skillet and bring to a simmer. Add pasta and remaining butter.
  4. Reduce heat to low and add Grana Padano, stirring and tossing with tongs until melted. Remove pan from heat; add Pecorino, stirring and tossing until cheese melts, sauce coats the pasta, and pasta is al dente. (Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry. I added all of the remaining pasta water.)
  5. Transfer pasta to warm bowls and serve.

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Baked Ziti with Cauliflower

Adding vegetables to a baked pasta dish is a wonderful way to slim it down and make it a little bit healthier. My son enjoyed this version as much as our standard super cheesy baked ziti. Not only does this version incorporate cauliflower, it is also upgraded by adding flavor from saffron and anchovies.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Martha Rose Shulman. The dish was inspired by another Sicilian cauliflower dish in Clifford A. Wright’s “Cucinia Paradiso.” I modified the recipe by roasting the cauliflower, increasing the garlic and tomatoes, using whole wheat pasta, and incorporating mozzarella cheese. Great.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 1 medium cauliflower, about 2 pounds, leaves and stem trimmed, cut into florets
  • coarse salt, to taste
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • 2-4 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with juice
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 T chopped flat leaf parsley
  • ¾ pound ziti or penne rigate (I used whole wheat penne)
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
  • 1/2 pound part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated
  1. Preheat an oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. On a parchment paper lined, rimmed baking sheet, toss the cauliflower florets with 1-2 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until tender.
  3. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees, on convection.
  4. Place the saffron in a small bowl and add 3 tablespoons warm water. Let steep for 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Combine the grated cheeses in a bowl.
  6. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until it smells fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute, and add the anchovies and tomatoes. Season to taste with salt (remembering that the anchovies will contribute a lot of salt) and freshly ground pepper.
  7. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell fragrant, about 10 minutes.
  8. Stir in the roasted cauliflower, saffron with its soaking water, and parsley, cover and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  9. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Add the pasta. Cook until just al dente, a few minutes less than you would cook it to serve. It will soften further when it bakes. (I cooked the whole wheat penne noodles for 5 minutes, 2 minutes shy of al dente.) Drain and transfer to a bowl.
  10. Oil a 3-quart baking dish. Toss the pasta with half the cauliflower mixture and half the cheese and spoon into the baking dish.
  11. Combine the remaining cauliflower mixture with half of the remaining cheese and spoon over the pasta.
  12. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top. Drizzle on the remaining tablespoon of oil.
  13. Place in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until bubbling. Garnish with parsley, if desired. Serve hot.

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Bucatini with Roasted & Fresh Tomatoes

This is a wonderful seasonal dish to make with summer tomatoes. It was especially fabulous with my new favorite pasta, bucatini, too. We ate it warm but it could also be enjoyed at room temperature. The crunchy, cheesy croutons really added something special.

I used store-bought ricotta as a shortcut, but included a link to freshly made ricotta below. This recipe was (very slightly) adapted from Martha Stewart Living. Quick and delicious!

Yield: Serves 4
  • 1 pound grape or cherry tomatoes (3 cups)
  • 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 slices rustic bread, crusts removed, torn into small pieces (1 1/2 cups) (I used Trader Joe’s Tuscan Pane)
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano (1/2 ounce), plus more for serving
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cut into a 1/2-inch dice (2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup packed shredded fresh basil, plus sprigs for serving
  • 3 tablespoons shredded fresh mint, plus sprigs for serving (I omitted the mint)
  • 12 ounces bucatini, spaghetti, or linguine
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. In an 8-inch square baking dish, toss cherry tomatoes with 3 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast until bursting and charred in spots, 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, on a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet, toss bread with 2 tablespoons oil and Pecorino Romano; season with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing halfway through, until golden brown and crisp, about 12 minutes.
  4. Toss diced tomatoes, basil, and mint (if using) with remaining 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper.
  5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta; cook according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup liquid; drain.
  6. Return pasta to pot; toss with roasted tomatoes, their oil, and 1/2 cup reserved pasta water. (Tomatoes should coat pasta but not create much of a sauce.) Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Divide among plates, then give each a dollop of ricotta, a spoonful of fresh-tomato mixture, and a sprinkle of croutons.
  8. Serve, garnished with a sprig or two of herbs, a generous drizzle of oil, and some cheese and pepper.

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Orecchiette with Corn, Bacon, & Parmesan

My family has a tough time getting back into our school schedule after summer vacation. It’s such a struggle! :/ I have a few quick weeknight meals that are just perfect for those of us who are suddenly short on time.

I first made this dish to celebrate after receiving my first ever organic corn in my CSA share. I had used cavatappi noodles and was disappointed in my choice of pasta. I think that this dish was perfect the second time around with my farm stand corn and orecchiette. Yay!

This recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen.com. Quick and tasty comfort food.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 16 ounces dried orecchiette pasta
  • 1/2 pound bacon, ideally thick-cut, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces (I used 5 slices)
  • 3 ears corn, shucked and kernels cut from cob (I used bi-color corn)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • red pepper flakes, optional, to taste
  • 6 scallions, sliced
  • 2/3 cup finely grated parmesan or pecorino romano
  • a fistful of fresh basil and/or chives, chiffonade

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, until al dente, or 1 to 2 minutes before it is done. Reserve a cup of pasta cooking water and drain.
  2. Scatter bacon in a large sauté pan (4 quart) over medium-high heat, no need to heat the pan first. Cook, stirring, until evenly browned and crisp.
  3. Use a slotted spoon to transfer bacon bits to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons bacon fat from pan (reserve for other uses, like frying eggs) and add corn to it.
  4. Season corn with salt and pepper and cook, stirring for 1 to 2 minutes, until crisp-tender. Add a dash or two of red pepper flakes, if using.
  5. Add pasta and a couple splashes of the cooking water and half the parmesan and toss, toss, toss the pasta with the corn, seasoning with more salt and pepper if needed and adding more cooking water if it doesn’t feel loose enough.
  6. Add scallions and stir to warm. (I reserved a few for garnish.)
  7. Stir in bacon and transfer to a serving bowl. (I reserved a little bit for garnish.)
  8. Sprinkle with remaining cheese, fresh herbs, and reserved scallions and bacon. Serve.

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Pasta with Yogurt & Caramelized Onions

This wonderful meatless main dish tasted like a deconstructed version of my mother-in-law’s special homemade Christmas Eve pierogies. Apparently, it is actually an adapted Greek island dish! It was rich and delicious.

This recipe was adapted from Food 52 Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes that will change the way you cook by Kristen Miglore, contributed by Diane Kochilas. (This cookbook was a Christmas gift from my sweet brother. ) I used dried pappardelle noodles instead of fresh tagliatelle.

The author suggests ways to “fancy” up this dish by adding chard or spinach to the pasta just as it finishes boiling. Another suggestion was to blend the sauce with peas, mint, or tahini. All so yummy!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 5 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 cups (1.4 L) coarsely chopped or sliced yellow onions
  • sea salt
  • 1 pound (450 g) tagliatelle or other fresh pasta or dried pappardelle
  • 2 cups (450 g) thick, strained Greek-style yogurt (I used 2 percent)
  • 1 cup (100 g) coarsely grated Pecorino Romano or kefalotyri cheese
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the onions. Decrease the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently and seasoning with sea salt to taste as you go, until the onions are soft and golden brown, 20 to 30+ minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. As the water heats, add enough salt so that you can taste it. Add the pasta and cook until soft, just past al dente.
  3. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the pasta water. Return the pasta to the pot.
  4. Combine the yogurt with 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the reserved cooking water and whisk to mix well. Add more of the reserved pasta water as needed to get the sauce to your desired thickness.
  5. Toss the pasta with the yogurt mixture.
  6. Serve the pasta immediately, sprinkled generously with cheese and topped with the caramelized onions and their juices.

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Pesto Polenta with Fresh Tomatoes

This is a fast full-flavored dish. Healthy too! I always forget about how much I enjoy creamy polenta. 🙂 We ate it for dinner but it would also be wonderful for brunch.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Todd Porter and Diane Cu. I increased the salt, doubled the tomatoes, and made homemade pesto. The pesto recipe is from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. Tasty!

Yield: Serves 3 (in my house!) or 4

For the Pesto: (Makes about 1 cup)

  • 2 loosely packed cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried
  • coarse salt
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 T pine nuts or walnuts
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or pecorino Romano

For the Dish:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes (I used Campari)
  • 3/4 to 1 cup pesto

To Make the Pesto:

  1. Combine the basil with a pinch of salt, the garlic, the nuts, and about half of the oil in a food processor or blender.
  2. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container if necessary and adding the rest of the oil gradually.
  3. Add more oil if you prefer a thinner mixture. (Sometimes I add a little bit of stock instead to achieve the same result.)
  4. Stir in the cheese.

To Finish the Dish:

  1. In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. (I use a cast iron pot.) While whisking, gradually pour the polenta into the water.
  2. Reduce the heat to simmer or low and continue whisking for an additional minute.
  3. Continue cooking for about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot.
  4. Remove the polenta from the heat when it is tender and creamy and has reached your desired thickness.
  5. Stir the salt and butter into the polenta until the butter is melted.
  6. Scoop polenta out onto plates. Top each with about 1/4 cup pesto. Divide tomatoes among plates. Serve. (We individually mixed together all of the ingredients before digging in!)

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Creamy Tomato Risotto with Crispy Garlic Crumbs

This wonderful dish is truly season-less. I made it with canned tomatoes but it would be amazing adapted to use fresh summer tomatoes and garden herbs. The crispy garlic breadcrumbs add crunch and a burst of flavor.

I modified the original recipe to cook in a pressure cooker- making it an elegant weeknight meal. (I use my pressure cooker almost exclusively for risotto!) This recipe was adapted from Nicky @Kitchen Sanctuary.com. Lovely!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

For the Risotto:

  • 800 g/28 oz can diced tomatoes (or peeled and diced fresh tomatoes)
  • 400 ml/16 fl oz chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow or sweet onion, peeled and chopped finely
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 300 g/11 oz/ 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 150 ml/5 fl oz white wine (optional, replace with stock if you’d prefer)
  • 100 ml/4 fl oz light or heavy cream
  • 60 g/2 oz freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano
  • freshly squeezed juice of one lemon
  • 2 generous pinches of coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

For the Crispy Garlic Crumbs:

  • 1 1/2 T unsalted butter
  • generous pinch or two of coarse salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 60 g/2 oz panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 T chopped chives or parsley
  • grated zest of one lemon
  • 40 g/1.5 oz freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano

To Make the Tomato Stock:

  1. Using a colander or sieve, strain a can of chopped tomatoes over a bowl. Use a spoon to mash the tomatoes left in the sieve to a fine pulp, then pour this pulp back into the tomato juice in the bowl.
  2. Add in the stock and tomato paste and stir. The total yield will be a scant 6 cups.

To Make the Risotto:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pressure cooker (5 to 7 quarts). Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes until the onion starts to go translucent, add in the garlic, stir and cook for a further minute.
  2. Add the rice and stir until it turns opaque, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the unheated tomato stock and the wine. Stir to combine.
  4. Lock the lid in place and bring to high pressure over high heat. Adjust the heat to maintain high pressure. Cook for 7 minutes.
  5. Release the pressure according to the manufacturer’s instructions or place the pot under running (drizzling) cold water. 

To Make the Crispy Garlic Crumbs:

  1. Heat the butter in a small frying pan until it starts to foam.
  2. Add the salt and the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add in the breadcrumbs and stir to ensure the butter covers all of the breadcrumbs.
  4. Allow to cook until the breadcrumbs start to brown a little, stirring often. Keep a close eye on them as they burn very easily.
  5. When ready, turn off the heat and add in the herbs, lemon zest and parmesan.

To Finish the dish:

  1. Open the lid of the pressure cooker, being careful of the steam. Add in the cream, cheese, and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir well to combine.
  2. Scoop portions out onto shallow bowls or plates. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture on top and serve.

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