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Making comfort food with what is in the cupboard

Chef Ali Waks Adams whips up a simple sauce for pasta (and just about anything!)

PORTLAND, Maine — Like all of us, Chef Ali Waks Adams is spending a lot of time at home in her kitchen -- and shares this simple recipe with us -- which is both delicious and versatile. 

"Shelter in Place" Cacio e Pepe Recipe 

(“Cah ch O ee Peh Pay”)

Pasta with Cheese and Pepper (with great deference to Samin Nosrat)

Serves 1 to 4 (depending on how hungry you are!) 

You'll need:

•    1.5  cup grated cheese – Parmigiano, Pecorino, Grana Padano, Aged Gouda….some cheese that may have hardened even though it wasn’t supposed to ) + more to finish

•    1 pound of pasta 

•    1 tablespoon (or more) butter

•    Kosher Salt 

•    Fresh Ground Pepper

1.    Bring a large pot of salted water to boil – how salty? It should taste like tears or the ocean—don’t leave this step out even if it seems like you using too much salt, you probably are not  (here' s a tip --  –don’t wait till the water is at a roiling boil to see if its salty enough. When it comes to a simmer, stick in a spoon to 'sample')

2.    When water is at a roiling boil (big active bubbles) —add pasta- cook to package directions—maybe 1 minute less for dried fresh pasta.

3.    Place grated cheese in a blender or food processor or a bowl,  add several grinds of fresh pepper ( depends on how much you like pepper, if you don’t really like it just leave it out!).

4.    Ladle out about ½ cup of the pasta water and add to the cheese/pepper – blend till creamy.

5.    Pour sauce out into a large bowl.

6.    Once pasta is finished – using tongs or a slotted spoon ( depending on pasta shape – you go crazy trying to spoon spaghetti or tong out penne!)—move the pasta into the bowl with the cheese mixture (don’t worry of some water gets in there- you want that)

7.    Turn, turn, turn the pasta and cheese together --- it will start to get creamy—the pasta will absorb the cheese and give up a bit of starch.

8.    Add the lump of butter and turn, turn,  turn again.

9.  Add more cheese and more pepper to taste and enjoy.

You can add all kinds of things if you like—broccoli is really good, so is bacon, or sausage or asparagus. Be creative!

What else can you use this sauce for...?

Make extra cacio e pepe cheese and add to:

Vegetables – steamed or roasted—or mix with olive oil, lemon juice and anchovy to make a ceasar-ish salad dressing

Potatoes – mashed, baked, steamed

Chicken – Add a layer on chicken breasts before coating in bread crumbs and fry or smear under the skin of a chicken about to be roasted along with a few garlic cloves and some lemon zest

Steak/Chops - place a tsp or so on top of a steak or chops you’ve just pulled off the grill or off the broiler

Grains/Rice etc—stir into some farro, quinoa, rice, polenta , grits etc.

Fish - Stir a handful into steamed clams (add parsley & lemon too) or mix with breadcrumbs and lemon and top haddock with it before roasting in the oven,.

Eggs - Stir a bit into scrambled eggs or into frittata base

Toast?? – Rub a good sturdy piece of toasted bread with garlic and olive oil, spread on cacio e pepe and broil its like the best garlic bread ever.


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