Cacio e Pepe

This Cacio e Pepe recipe makes the perfect creamy, cozy dish of that classic Roman “cheese and pepper” pasta! There’s…

A Couple Cooks – Recipes worth repeating.

This Cacio e Pepe recipe makes the perfect creamy, cozy dish of that classic Roman “cheese and pepper” pasta!

Cacio e pepe

There’s something intoxicating about this shallow bowl of steaming pasta covered in salty, creamy sauce, black pepper and fluffy bits of Pecorino Cheese. Yes, it’s cacio e pepe, that famous Roman pasta that’s blown up in world-wide popularity. Years ago, we tasted a bowl on a trip to Rome, Italy that was so divine we never wanted it to end. Anthony Bourdain once said that cacio e pepe “could be the greatest thing in the history of the world”: and we’re inclined to agree with him. Turns out, this pasta is beyond simple to whip up at home: it’s got a short ingredient list and takes just minutes to whip up. Here’s our spin on this Italian classic!

What is cacio e pepe?

Cacio e pepe is a Roman pasta dish that translates to “cheese and pepper,” referring the simple sauce made of Pecorino Romano cheese and pepper. The sauce is made simply with hot pasta water and freshly grated cheese, which combine to form a luscious, creamy coating to the pasta noodles. According to legend, the dish was invented by shepherds who needed a simple meal with easy to carry staple ingredients. The modern Cacio e pepe was likely invented in the 1800’s, when eating pasta became popular in Rome.

Cacio e pepe

Ingredients in cacio e pepe

Restaurants in Rome each have their own version of cacio e pepe, and we’ve been lucky enough to sample quite a few (we prefer the version at Roscioli if you’re planning a trip!). Here’s what you’ll need for this spin on the classic:

  • Spaghetti or bucatini pasta: Spaghetti is most traditional. We also like bucatini (pictured), which is like hollow spaghetti
  • Pecorino Romano cheese: This sharp, salty aged cheese is what carries the flavor of cacio e pepe. There’s absolutely no substitute for it! Try to buy it in a block if you can (see below).
  • Parmesan cheese: Using this secondary, ore popular cheese helps to round out the flavors. Don’t want to buy two cheeses? Substitute more Pecorino (it’s just as authentic).
  • Butter: This extra ingredient helps the sauce to come together.
  • Black pepper: A generous helping of pepper rounds out the dish.

Tips for cooking pasta to al dente

With cacio e pepe and any Italian pasta recipe, it’s important to cook the pasta to the perfect al dente. Al dente means “to the bite” in Italian: pasta that’s tender with a firm center. Overcooked pasta turns out rubbery and unappetizing. Interestingly, it also has less nutrients and makes you less full. Here’s how to cook pasta to al dente:

  • Set your timer a few minutes before the package instructions indicate. Often, the timing on the pasta package makes overcooked pasta. Start taste testing a few minutes before the package says to.
  • Look for small white fleck at the core. You want to catch it right when there’s a small white fleck at the core, or just as it disappears. Move quickly: there’s no remedy for overcooked pasta!
Cacio e pepe recipe

How to make cacio e pepe (with a smooth sauce)

The biggest issue you’ll find with a homemade cacio e pepe recipe? The sauce comes out clumpy and globby. The sauce is made with hot pasta water, and often when you add the cheese and stir it will glob to the spoon and the pasta instead of integrating into a smooth sauce. Here are a few ways to ensure a creamy sauce:

  • Freshly grate the cheese from a block instead of buying grated. Buy blocks of Pecorino Romano and Parmesan cheese and grate them yourself. Pre-grated cheese can contain anti-caking agents and additives that can make the cheese stick together instead of incorporating into a creamy sauce.
  • Don’t drain the pasta: transfer it to the sauce using tongs. Add any pasta water that clings to the noodles right into the sauce.
  • Add additional pasta water and keep stirring. If it starts to clump, add additional pasta water and keep stirring until the cheese incorporates.
Cacio e pepe

What to serve alongside

With such a simple pasta dish, you can go either pared back or elegant: either work! Here are a few Italian-style side dishes to serve with cacio e pepe:

What do you plan to serve it with? Let us know in the comments below.

More Italian pasta recipes

Love a great Italian-style pasta? Us too! Here are a few more great pasta recipes:

This cacio e pepe recipe is…

Vegetarian.

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Cacio e pepe

Cacio e Pepe


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4

Description

This Cacio e Pepe recipe makes the perfect creamy, cozy dish of that classic Roman “cheese and pepper” pasta!


Ingredients

  • 12 ounces spaghetti or bucatini pasta
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese*
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese*

Instructions

  1. Bring a salted pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta to al dente (taste testing a minute or two before the package instructions indicate). Don’t drain the pasta and reserve 1 cup pasta water.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until it melts, then turn the heat to low. Add the black pepper, Pecorino Romano cheese and Parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons of the hot pasta water. Stir until a thick paste forms, then remove from the heat and wait until the pasta is done.
  3. Right when pasta is al dente, transfer the pasta without draining it: use tongs to transfer it into the saucepan along with any pasta water clinging to the noodles. Add an additional ½ cup of pasta water and return the heat to low. Toss the pasta with the cheesy paste until a thick sauce forms, about 2 minutes. If the cheese starts to glob up, add more pasta water and continue to stir. Top with additional grated Pecorino cheese and serve hot.

Notes

*If you can, buy blocks of Pecorino Romano and Parmesan cheese and grate them yourself. Pre-grated cheese can contain anti-caking agents and additives that can make the cheese stick together instead of incorporating into a creamy sauce.

  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Keywords: Cacio e pepe, cacio e pepe recipe

A Couple Cooks - Recipes worth repeating.

Kale & Farro Salad with Sourdough Breadcrumbs

This hearty kale salad is anything but boring: tossed with tangy lemon and flavorful pecorino cheese and topped with nutty farro, crunchy sourdough breadcrumbs, and tart dried barberries. The addition of nutritious farro makes this salad suitable as a meal unto itself, perfect for lunch or a light dinner, though it’s also lovely served as […]

The post Kale & Farro Salad with Sourdough Breadcrumbs first appeared on Love and Olive Oil.

This hearty kale salad is anything but boring: tossed with tangy lemon and flavorful pecorino cheese and topped with nutty farro, crunchy sourdough breadcrumbs, and tart dried barberries.

The addition of nutritious farro makes this salad suitable as a meal unto itself, perfect for lunch or a light dinner, though it’s also lovely served as a side salad alongside some grilled chicken or seared steak.

As our friend Richard used to say… it’s delicious AND nutritious!

Two dark gray bowls of Kale & Farro Salad with Sourdough Breadcrumbs on a dark gray background, loaf of sourdough bread in the background.

The base of this kale salad recipe comes from the Six Seasons cookbook, and it’s one we’ve made many, many times (it’s one of the few kale salad recipes I actually like).

While the original recipe is near perfect, we wanted to make it a bit more substantial and filling as a meal in and of itself, hence the addition of farro. We also used homemade sourdough for the breadcrumbs, added barberries, and tweaked the process a little bit (adding the cheese separately versus mixing it all together makes for more even distribution and less clumps). Also, twice as much cheese and garlic (as you do).

This recipe works with any kind of kale; the original calls for lacinato (the darker, dino-skin looking stuff); we used curly kale here since I love the texture and lift: it doesn’t collapse under the weight of the farro.

(more…)

Brussels Sprout Casserole

This Brussels sprout casserole is pure bliss! Bake tender sprouts with a white cheddar cheese sauce and top with crunchy…

A Couple Cooks – Recipes worth repeating.

This Brussels sprout casserole is pure bliss! Bake tender sprouts with a white cheddar cheese sauce and top with crunchy breadcrumbs.

Brussels Sprouts Casserole

Here’s a rich and delicious side dish that will have everyone talking about it: this perfect Brussels Sprout Casserole! Because what’s better than making Brussels that taste like mac and cheese? Bake up those tender sprouts with a rich and creamy white cheddar cheese sauce, then top it with crunchy breadcrumbs toasted until they’re golden brown. It’s truly sublime (and we’re not just saying that!). This is our go-to for a cozy homey side dish that everyone will go crazy over.

Ingredients in Brussels sprout casserole

This Brussels sprout casserole has three basic elements that make its magic: sauteed Brussels sprouts with shallots and garlic, a white cheddar cheese sauce, and a crunchy breadcrumb topping. It’s perfect for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any festive fall or winter meal. Use it as a side dish or even a vegetarian main dish! Here’s what you need:

  • Brussels sprouts, shallots and garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Butter
  • Flour
  • Milk
  • Onion powder and garlic powder
  • White cheddar
  • Pecorino Romano cheese: an aged cheese like a saltier version of Parmesan! If desired, substitute Parmesan cheese and another pinch of salt
  • Panko
Brussels sprout casserole

How to prepare the Brussels sprouts

For this Brussels sprouts recipe, you’ll to slice the Brussels sprouts into quarters. Here’s why, and a few tips:

  • Slicing into quarters makes them easier to saute. The first step is to make sautéed Brussels sprouts, and they cook faster and more evenly in smaller pieces.
  • Got super large Brussels sprouts? We’ve gotten some massive ones at the store. Cut them in half, then into thirds to make sixths. Very small Brussels can likely just go in half. The goal is to have everything in similar sized pieces.
  • Remember the weight for the sprouts is off the stem. It’s easiest to buy them in bags from the store: usually you can find one pound bags.
 Brussels sprouts

Making the white cheddar cheese sauce

This Brussels sprout casserole features a white cheddar cheese sauce that’s made like a traditional mac and cheese sauce using a roux. A “roux” (pronounced “Roo“) is a way to thicken sauces by cooking equal parts flour and butter. It results in a thick and creamy sauce. There are a few important things to note about making a roux:

  • Measure out your ingredients in advance (mise en place). The cooking process goes fast, so you don’t want to be distracted by measuring. The French way to say measure out all your ingredients is mise en place, which “means everything in its place”.
  • Don’t leave the stove, and watch closely. The flour and butter can burn easily! Stand by the stove and start adding milk right when the flour turns golden brown.
  • Add the milk gradually. Pour in the milk and constantly whisk, adding it little by little, until it forms a smooth sauce. Then add the cheese and stir until it melts.
Brussels sprout casserole

Ways to serve Brussels sprouts casserole

There are so many ways to serve this Brussels sprouts casserole: it works as a side dish or a main dish! It’s just like mac and cheese but using Brussels sprouts instead of pasta, so it’s the ideal vegetarian main dish. Use it in the following ways:

Make ahead tips

Want to make this Brussels sprouts casserole for a big meal and make some portions ahead of time? Here’s what to do:

  • Sauté the Brussels sprouts in advance, then refrigerate until ready to prepare. Re-warm them in the skillet for a few minutes prior to adding the sauce.
  • Make the cheese sauce in advance, then refrigerate. The sauce will thicken in the refrigerator. Before preparing the casserole, re-warm the sauce with the Brussels sprouts in the skillet.

More Brussels sprouts recipes

In love with the mighty Brussel sprout? Here are a few more top Brussels sprouts recipes for serving this versatile veggie:

This Brussels sprout casserole recipe is…

Vegetarian.

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Brussels Sprouts Casserole

Brussels Sprout Casserole


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 8 to 10, as a side
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

This Brussels sprout casserole is pure bliss! Bake tender sprouts with a white cheddar cheese sauce and top with crunchy breadcrumbs.


Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds Brussels sprouts, off the stem
  • 2 large shallots
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 ⅛ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups whole or 2% milk
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup (about 4 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup Pecorino Romano cheese (or Parmesan cheese, with an extra pinch salt)
  • ½ cup plain panko (or breadcrumbs)
  • Paprika, optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Chop: Slice off the tough ends of the Brussels sprouts and cut them into quarters, discarding any discolored outer leaves (cut any very large sprouts into sixths). Thinly slice the shallot. Mince the garlic.
  3. Sauté: Heat the olive oil in oven-proof skillet or cast iron pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and fragrant. Add the Brussels sprouts, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper and sauté on medium high heat for 3 minutes. Add ¼ cup water and continue cooking until tender and starting to brown, another 6 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  4. Meanwhile, make the cheese sauce: Grate the white cheddar cheese (if necessary). Measure out the butter, flour, milk, ⅛ teaspoon salt, onion powder, and garlic powder. In a saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat; when it melts, stir in the flour. Heat the mixture for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. When the color starts to turn light brown, immediately reduce the heat to low. Add the milk very slowly: whisking constantly until the mixture is completely smooth before adding more. Then add the salt, onion powder, and garlic powder and continue cooking on low heat for about 2 minutes, whisking frequently. Gradually add the sharp cheddar cheese and Pecorino Romano cheese, and keep stirring until it is fully melted and the sauce is smooth.
  5. Bake: Stir the cheese sauce into the cooked Brussels sprouts. Sprinkle with panko and bake 20 minutes until golden brown. If desired, dust with a pinch of paprika. Serve warm.
  • Category: Side dish
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Brussels sprouts casserole

A Couple Cooks - Recipes worth repeating.

Butternut Squash Lasagna with Sage

This butternut squash lasagna recipe is incredible! Ricotta, Pecorino, and sage make a stunning dinner that pleases everyone. Welcome to…

A Couple Cooks – Recipes worth repeating.

This butternut squash lasagna recipe is incredible! Ricotta, Pecorino, and sage make a stunning dinner that pleases everyone.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Welcome to your new favorite fall dinner: Butternut Squash Lasagna with Sage! The flavors are impeccable: creamy ricotta, punchy Pecorino, and fresh sage envelop the sweet squash in a cozy embrace. In fact, an embrace is just what it feels like when you take a bite! It’s a bit of prep work, but we’ve simplified a few steps so you don’t need a nap once you throw it in the oven. Every bite is a bit of sweet, savory, creamy, herby, and altogether irresistible.

Ingredients in butternut squash lasagna

Butternut squash lasagna can take ages to make, especially if you roast the squash and make a béchamel sauce. This recipe is simplified: you’ll boil the squash and make a quick sauce using ricotta cheese that doesn’t require any heating on the stovetop. Here’s what you’ll need for this recipe:

  • Butternut squash (medium)
  • Ricotta, Mozzarella and Pecorino cheese
  • Milk
  • Lasagna noodles
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic powder, nutmeg salt and pepper
  • Fresh sage
  • Lemon

This recipe comes out stunning: it’s ideal for entertaining! It’s perfect for fall dinner parties, and would be a great Thanksgiving recipe or for Christmas dinner.

Butternut Squash Lasagna Recipe

How to cut butternut squash: some tips!

The hardest part of making a butternut squash lasagna? Cutting the squash. Butternut squash is a notoriously difficult vegetable to tackle. We’ve got a few tips for cutting squash without breaking into a sweet:

  1. Watch the video! First, watch this quick video of How to Cut Butternut Squash. It’s helpful to watch the method.
  2. Use a serrated peeler. A serrated blade makes it easier to peel the tough skin than a normal vegetable peeler, which can easily slip. Don’t have one? Try this serrated vegetable peeler.
  3. Cut off the neck and chop it separately from the base. Don’t cut the entire squash together. Chop off the neck, then peel it and chop into squares! Do the same for the base. 
Butternut Squash Lasagna

A few time savers in this butternut squash lasagna

If you follow along with us, you might know we’re sticklers for simple recipes (we even wrote a cookbook about it). While lasagna is almost never easy, the concept is pretty simple. But a typical butternut squash lasagna requires quite a bit of prep work. Here’s how we simplified this recipe to save time:

  • Boil the butternut squash instead of roasting it. Roasting is our favorite technique for cooking vegetables, but it’s got a longer lead time. Roasted butternut squash takes about 45 minutes with preheat time, whereas you can whip up boiled squash in about 10 minutes with boiling time.
  • Make a quick ricotta sauce. A bechamel sauce is more traditional in a butternut squash lasagna, but that also takes time and dirties a pot. This recipe uses ricotta, milk and some seasonings to make a quick and dirty sauce.

The sauce is not a traditional cream sauce, so the lasagna has a firmer texture. It’s not as gooey as you might expect, but it’s 100% delicious.

Make ahead and storage info

Butternut squash lasagna is a bit of a project for a weeknight: it takes about 1 ½ hours start to finish. We love making this for guests: but you can also make it on a weeknight with some additional prep steps! Here are some ideas:

  • Make ahead ideas: Boil the butternut squash in advance and refrigerate it until ready to bake (or use leftover roasted butternut squash). You can also boil the noodles in advance and refrigerate: just make sure they’re coated in a little olive oil before refrigerating.
  • Or make ahead the entire pan: Make the entire lasagna prior to baking, then refrigerate overnight. Increase the bake time as needed to cook until it’s warmed through and the cheese has browned.
  • Storage info: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 2 days. Or freeze them: it’s easiest to cut it into single servings and freeze each in separate containers. To reheat, defrost the lasagna the refrigerator, then place in a baking dish, cover with foil and reheat at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, until warmed through.
Butternut Squash Lasagna

More butternut squash recipes

When squash season is upon us, it’s easy to get squash obsessed! Here are a few of our top butternut squash recipes:

This butternut squash lasagna recipe is…

Vegetarian. For gluten-free, use gluten-free noodles.

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Butternut Squash Lasagna

Butternut Squash Lasagna with Sage


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: 9
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

This butternut squash lasagna recipe is incredible! Ricotta, Pecorino, and sage make a stunning dinner that pleases everyone.


Ingredients

For the butternut squash

  • 2-pound butternut squash (medium)
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder

For the lasagna

  • 9 to 12 lasagna noodles (6 to 8 ounces, gluten-free if necessary)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh sage, divided, plus additional leaves as desired
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon (about 2 teaspoons)
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
  • 16 ounces (2 cups) whole milk ricotta cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded Pecorino cheese, divided
  • 8 ounces (2 ½ cups) shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

Instructions

  1. Preheat: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Boil the squash: Peel and cut the butternut squash into small cubes about 1/2-inch thick. (Go to How to Cut Butternut Squash for a video! A serrated vegetable peeler works best.) Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the squash and cook for about 5 to 6 minutes until fork tender (test a piece to see if it is done). Drain, then place in a medium bowl. Mix with the olive oil, kosher salt and garlic powder.
  3. Meanwhile, boil the noodles*: Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil. Boil the noodles until just before al dente, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Drain the noodles, then drizzle a baking sheet with a bit of olive oil. Lay the noodles flat onto the sheet, then turn them over so they become coated with olive oil to prevent sticking.
  4. Prepare the ricotta sauce: Add 1 tablespoon chopped sage to a medium bowl and reserve about ½ tablespoon for topping the lasagna. To the bowl, add the lemon zest, nutmeg, ricotta cheese, salt and pepper and milk. Stir.
  5. Layer the lasagna: In a 9” x 13” baking dish, spread ½ cup ricotta sauce on the bottom of the pan. Then top with 1 layer of noodles, ½ of the cooked squash, scant 2/3 cup cheese sauce, 1 cup mozzarella and ⅓ cup Pecorino cheese. Repeat again: 1 layer of noodles (you may need to cut a noodle in half for the side, depending on your pan), the remaining squash, scant 2/3 cup cheese sauce, 1 cup mozzarella cheese and ⅓ cup Pecorino cheese. Finally, top with noodles (again, you may need to cut a noodle in half for the top layer), then the remaining ricotta sauce spread with a spatula. Sprinkle the entire top with the remaining ½ cup mozzarella cheese, ⅓ cup Pecorino cheese, and ½ tablespoon sage.
  6. Bake the lasagna: Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and bake another 20 minutes, until the top is browned. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Leftovers can be refrigerated for 2 to 3 days and reheated in a 400°F oven. (See make ahead and storage notes below.)

Notes

*If you use fresh lasagna noodles, they don’t need to be boiled.

Make ahead ideas: Boil the butternut squash in advance and refrigerate it until ready to bake. Boil the noodles in advance and refrigerate, making sure they’re coated in a little olive oil.
Or make ahead the entire pan: Make the entire lasagna prior to baking, then refrigerate overnight. Increase the bake time as needed to cook until it’s warmed through and the cheese has browned.
Storage info: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 2 days. Or freeze them: it’s easiest to cut it into single servings and freeze each in separate containers. To reheat, defrost the lasagna the refrigerator, then place in a baking dish, cover with foil and reheat at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, until warmed through.

  • Category: Main dish
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: Pasta

Keywords: Butternut squash lasagna, butternut squash lasagna recipe

A Couple Cooks - Recipes worth repeating.

Sourdough Gnocchetti Sardi with Basil Pesto Sauce

Like a lazy summer in a bowl, this creamy basil pesto sauce has extra creaminess and flavor from the addition of soft cultured dairy. Serve it with your favorite homemade pasta for a true summer treat! Everyone knows and loves pesto, and you probably already have a go-to recipe. But this one is putting up […]

The post Sourdough Gnocchetti Sardi with Basil Pesto Sauce first appeared on Love and Olive Oil.

Like a lazy summer in a bowl, this creamy basil pesto sauce has extra creaminess and flavor from the addition of soft cultured dairy. Serve it with your favorite homemade pasta for a true summer treat!

Everyone knows and loves pesto, and you probably already have a go-to recipe. But this one is putting up stiff competition: with a perfect proportion of bright green basil, pine nuts, oil, and a mix of 3 kinds of cheese, it’s definitely a contender for your new favorite pesto.

Two black bowls with homemade gnochetti with pesto sauce, black utensils and basil leaves

Basil just tastes like summer.

Whether sliced into ribbons and sprinkled over a slice of juicy tomato, or blanched and blended into the perfect pesto, basil is undeniably one of summer’s best flavors.

By August, our patio basil plant is overflowing its pot, with lush, green leaves the size of my hand and the petite white flowers that I can hardly pinch back fast enough.

Which is why this is the perfect time of year for gloriously big batches of pesto.

In fact, when my basil starts to bolt I’ll often hack it down to the roots, using the entire plant in a triple batch of pesto that I’ll freeze for later, and replant a fresh young basil plant that will last easily last me through to the fall. This year I may even try to keep a fresh basil plant going through the winter in my kitchen window (it’s on the shady side of the house so I’ve never had much luck before, but I’m determined to persevere).

Overhead, shallow black pasta bowl with homemade gnochetti sardi in pesto sauce, with linen, grated cheese and basil leaves

This pesto sauce is slightly different from your typical pesto, in that it adds a little bit of Prescinsêua cheese, a soft cultured cheese from the Ligurian region of Italy. I haven’t been able to find it locally, but luckily Greek yogurt or ricotta, or a mix of the two, works just as well. I love the added creaminess it gives the sauce, and the barest hint of tang from the culture pairs beautifully with the subtle notes of sourdough in the pasta.

The recipe comes from the Pasta Grannies cookbook, one of my new favorites. It’s the next best thing to actually having an Italian grandmother.

In the book, this basil sauce is served with fresh steamed green beans and homemade trofie pasta (and if you want to make sourdough trofie, by all means go for it!) I opted for gnochetti sardi since I find it much easier to make.

I’ve scaled down the pesto sauce just a bit, and added the extra step of blanching the basil (because that older, end-of-summer basil can often have a harsh bite to it that isn’t ideal).

Closeup, homemade gnochetti sardi pasta with bright green pesto sauce and grated pecorino, in a black bowl with matte black fork Metal strainer pouring freshly cooked gnochetti sardi into a bowl spread with pesto sauce Stirring freshly cooked pasta in a bowl with pesto sauce

Rather than tossing the pesto with the cooked pasta in the big pot (that’s a total pain to clean up later), I spoon a bit of pesto sauce into each serving bowl, and put the freshly drained pasta right on top. The residual water on the pasta will help loosen the pesto, making for a smooth, even coating.

Italians are very intentional with their pasta shapes, choosing a shape that best serves the sauce. These gnochetti sardi, similar to the original trofie called for in this recipe, do a great job at holding on to the bits of pesto in the grooves and swirls of the pasta shape. Whereas something like fettuccine, with a smoother texture, would have a harder time sticking and you’d end up with less sauce per bite.

Gnochetti with bright green pesto sauce in black ceramic bowls and black forks on a gray background

Blanch your Basil

Blanching basil gives the pesto a brighter green color and a cleaner flavor, and makes the pesto less prone to oxidizing (meaning it won’t turn brown the second it touches the air).

Unless you have a bumper crop of young basil, I highly recommend taking the extra minute and blanching your basil first. You can even use the same pot of boiling water you’ll be using for your pasta! After about 20 seconds, fish out the basil using a slotted spoon or mesh skimmer and place it in a bath of ice water to stop the cooking process. Once it’s cool enough to handle, grab the blanched basil, squeeze out any excess water, and then place it in the blender or food processor to make your pesto.

I personally found the blender to work the best for this recipe, although the pesto can get a bit thick (in which case just add a splash of pasta water and it should ease it along). But you can also use a food processor here too.

Closeup, overhead bowl of gnochetti sardi with pesto sauce and fork

The pesto sauce recipe makes enough for about 4 servings of pasta. You can use the homemade sourdough pasta recipe I posted earlier this week (in the shape of your choice), or swap in your favorite fresh or dried pasta instead.

If you have leftover pesto, it keeps well in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days (the top may discolor just a little bit but not nearly as much as if the basil weren’t blanched).

Pesto is also easily frozen, so if you find yourself swimming in basil, feel free to double or even triple this recipe. Whatever you don’t use right away, just spoon into a zip-top bag and seal. Label, and freeze the bag flat to make for neat storage. Then you’ll have a stash of summery pesto to help brighten even the dreariest winter day.

Sourdough Gnocchetti Sardi with Basil Pesto Sauce

Sourdough Gnocchetti Sardi with Basil Pesto Sauce

Your new favorite pesto recipe is here: with a perfect proportion of bright green basil, pine nuts, oil, cheese, and a bit of extra creaminess and flavor from the addition of soft cultured dairy.

Ingredients:

  • 75g fresh basil leaves
  • 40g grated parmesan
  • 20g grated pecorino, plus more for topping
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 plump garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt (can also use ricotta cheese)
  • 1/4 cup (60mL) good extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 400g fresh homemade pasta (or 12oz of dried pasta of your choice), cooked as instructed

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare an ice bath by filling a bowl with cold water and ice.
  2. Blanch basil in boiling water for 20 seconds, then quickly transfer to an ice bath to stop the cooking. This extra step of blanching the basil will result in a brighter green color, a cleaner flavor, and help prevent the pesto from oxidizing. Once cool enough to handle, squeeze out the excess water.
  3. If using whole blocks of cheese, cut into pieces and place them right in the blender or food processor, then pulse until finely grated. If you are grating extra cheese for topping, do this first, then spoon out the extra cheese and set aside.
  4. Add pine nuts, garlic and yogurt to blender along with blanched and drained basil. Pulse until coarsely chopped, then add olive oil and blend until smooth. If pesto is too thick, add a splash or two of pasta water to help thin it out. Taste, then season with salt and pepper as desired (the cheeses are salty enough you may not need to add extra).
  5. Smear a generous spoonful of pesto in the bottom of each serving bowl. Using a large slotted spoon or mesh skimmer, remove pasta from water and place directly into bowls on top of pesto (it’s ok if they are not drained dry, the extra bit of water will help the loosen the pesto and coat the pasta easier). Toss to coat. Top with a bit of grated cheese, if desired, and serve warm.

Adapted from Pasta Grannies.

All images and text © Lindsay Landis /

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Spicy Mushroom Lasagna

When the very first Ottolenghi book came out, I had no idea what this mysterious restaurant, or person, was. But I was immediately captivated by the spectacular salads, cakes, vegetables, flatbreads, and more piled up on tables at Ottolenghi. The pictures in the book had a vibrancy that I’d not seen in any other cookbook before; mounds of vibrant-green fresh herbs piled atop salads, charred…

When the very first Ottolenghi book came out, I had no idea what this mysterious restaurant, or person, was. But I was immediately captivated by the spectacular salads, cakes, vegetables, flatbreads, and more piled up on tables at Ottolenghi. The pictures in the book had a vibrancy that I’d not seen in any other cookbook before; mounds of vibrant-green fresh herbs piled atop salads, charred vegetables and lavish use of tahini (which I narrowly once thought was only used to make hummus), and plum-marzipan cakes with the rosy, glistening fruit juices sliding off the top and pooling at the bottom. Wow.

We’ve since seen that style in plenty of other books, but the Ottolenghi books continue to evolve and each one marks another evolution in Yotam Ottolenghi’s cooking. And even when you don’t think he could come up with another great idea, he does.

Flavor is Yotam Ottlenghi’s latest book which he’s written with Ixta Belfrage. The title refers to the concept of the book, which is about how (and which) ingredients can be used to amplify flavors when cooking and baking. Ixta had a multicultural upbringing and she’s brought references and flavors from around the world in this book, which includes this Spicy Mushroom Lasagna. The recipe features dried and fresh mushrooms, as well as dried chiles, likely influenced by Mexico where she spent time with her grandfather, who lived there. The photo of it in the book made me want to make it. So I did!

Continue Reading Spicy Mushroom Lasagna...

Orecchiette with Bacon and Wilted Frisée

This easy weeknight pasta recipe will satisfy all your senses: with chunky bits of bacon and delicate wilted frisée and a mountain of freshly shredded Pecorino cheese. Quick and easy is the name of the game with this orecchiette pasta dish. It’s satisfying and flavorful, and even manages to get some greens in there in […]

This easy weeknight pasta recipe will satisfy all your senses: with chunky bits of bacon and delicate wilted frisée and a mountain of freshly shredded Pecorino cheese.

Quick and easy is the name of the game with this orecchiette pasta dish. It’s satisfying and flavorful, and even manages to get some greens in there in a surprisingly delicious way.

Bowl of orecchiette on a vintage wood board with a silver fork

Much like escarole, frisée is a unique, sturdy green that’s a bit too bitter to really enjoy as part of a salad. For me at least!

And other than soup, pastas are our favorite way to handle these slightly-bitter greens; in this case, slightly wilted and coated in bacon-y goodness which really does wonders to allay the bitterness.

Overhead, bowl of pasta with bacon and wilted frisee on a wooden board with pepper flakes and pecorino cheese

We first made this pasta months ago; I even shot it and wrote up a draft, but never published it because something just wasn’t quite right. Turns out, it was the pasta shape that was the problem. We originally used bucatini, which is one of our all-time favorite pasta shapes, but when used in this recipe it makes it really hard to get a nice ‘bite’ that includes all the goods in a single forkful. All the bits and toppings tend to settle in the bottom of your bowl.

That’s where orecchiette is so perfect: the little pasta ‘ears’ basically serve as scoops for the good stuff.

Anyone else reminded of those little rubber poppers you’d get from the quarter machines? You know, the ones you’d flip inside out, set on the table then hold your breath until they went flying? Just me?

Also: I will never spell orecchiette right on the first try. Heck, I can barely spell it right on the second, I usually end up having to google it and copy the spelling from there. It’s even worse than mozzarella or prosciutto!

Orecchiette: impossible to spell, effortless to eat.

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Pasta e Ceci (Pasta and Chickpea Stew)

Falling somewhere between a brothy stew and a saucy tomato pasta dish, Pasta e Ceci (pasta and chickpeas) is Italian comfort food at its finest. With a tomato based broth, chickpeas, ditalini pasta, and wilted escarole, this one-pot vegetarian stew is a hearty and satisfying meal in and of itself. Don’t forget to top it […]

Falling somewhere between a brothy stew and a saucy tomato pasta dish, Pasta e Ceci (pasta and chickpeas) is Italian comfort food at its finest.

With a tomato based broth, chickpeas, ditalini pasta, and wilted escarole, this one-pot vegetarian stew is a hearty and satisfying meal in and of itself. Don’t forget to top it with a pile of shaved pecorino cheese!

Ceramic bowl with pasta and chickpea stew on a ceramic plate with two spoons and a napkin.

Look, I know it’s officially summer and here I am posting a hearty stew recipe. We’ve been making this pasta e ceci stew or variations of it since March to use up all those canned beans in our pantry, and have finally perfected it to a point where it’s too good not to share. And who says you can’t eat stew in the summer? I mean, I certainly enjoy a nice scoop of ice cream no matter how cold it is, so why should hot stew be any different?

This classic Roman recipe falls somewhere in between a stew and a saucy tomato pasta, with a thick, saucy broth and satisfying bites of ditalini pasta and protein-rich chickpeas.

Overhead view of ceramic bowl with pasta e ceci stew and two spoons

While the roots of this recipe can be traced to a Roman peasant dish, there are myriad variations out there, the only thing they have in common is that they all have pasta and chickpeas (obviously). Some versions are more soup-like, some more tomato-heavy than others, and some feature heartier additions like greens or meat.

We loosely based our version on this recipe from Colu Henry (her book, Back Pocket Pasta, is one of our all-time favorite cookbooks).

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Pici Cacio e Pepe

After having the Pici Cacio e Pepe at Padella (a pasta restaurant in Borough Market, London), I became kind of obsessed with it. It was like nothing else I’d had before with wobbly, worm-like noodles and a rich yet light sauce packed with a salty, tangy punch. Black pepper wasn’t something I’d ever had as a main seasoning in a dish but it worked so well here. My brother and I discovered that there was a video on Jamie Oliver’s youtube channel of Tim Siadatan, the head chef of Padella, making said cacio e pepe. He only gives actual quantities for the pasta dough part and has the sauce ingredients in rough quantities. We made it like this, following his directions, and it worked so wonderfully. Since then, I’d made the dish quite a few times but since I was never measuring ingredients, the results were varied! I decided to finally measure everything out as I went and tested it a couple of times with my proper written recipe so I could type it up for here. Traditional cacio e pepe uses Pecorino cheese (and no lemon! and also I think no butter?) in the sauce. I use Parmesan cheese […]

The post Pici Cacio e Pepe appeared first on Izy Hossack – Top With Cinnamon.

Pici cacio e pepe from padella recipe at home

After having the Pici Cacio e Pepe at Padella (a pasta restaurant in Borough Market, London), I became kind of obsessed with it. It was like nothing else I’d had before with wobbly, worm-like noodles and a rich yet light sauce packed with a salty, tangy punch. Black pepper wasn’t something I’d ever had as a main seasoning in a dish but it worked so well here.

nests of pici dough on a tray with ingredients for cacio e pepe

My brother and I discovered that there was a video on Jamie Oliver’s youtube channel of Tim Siadatan, the head chef of Padella, making said cacio e pepe. He only gives actual quantities for the pasta dough part and has the sauce ingredients in rough quantities. We made it like this, following his directions, and it worked so wonderfully. Since then, I’d made the dish quite a few times but since I was never measuring ingredients, the results were varied! I decided to finally measure everything out as I went and tested it a couple of times with my proper written recipe so I could type it up for here.

Traditional cacio e pepe uses Pecorino cheese (and no lemon! and also I think no butter?) in the sauce. I use Parmesan cheese because (1) Pecorino isn’t readily available/ I always have Parmesan in the fridge (2) I prefer the flavour of Parmesan as I find Pecorino too salty/sheep-y (3) At Padella they use Parmesan in the sauce and that is what this recipe is based off of. PLEASE do not come at me telling me this isn’t traditional – I know it’s not!! But it’s still delicious! ?

stretching pici dough into rectangle for cacio e pepe
cutting pici dough into strips for cacio e pepe
cutting pici dough into strips for cacio e pepe
rolling strips of pici dough into worms for cacio e pepe

This is my idea of the ultimate dinner date meal. It’s kinda fancy and needs a little more attention than your average dried pasta dish BUT you don’t need a pasta machine and it’s made with ingredients you probably already have in the fridge. It feels indulgent and restaurant-y yet rustic. I have found that it’s kind of tough to make for a crowd, with 2 servings being the ideal amount so, again, it’s perfect for date night (or Valentine’s day!).

pici cacio e pepe in two bowls with a glass of wine

I made a video of the process when I was in Mallorca last summer (which you can watch below!) and have also done a little .GIF of the pici rolling process so you can easily see how to make them. A quick note that the dough does need to be rested in the fridge so that the gluten can relax, allowing you to roll out the dough more easily. I rest it for 1 hour usually but you can rest it for up to 24 hours. Also, make sure you have all your saucy ingredients at the ready before you start boiling the pasta as it all happens v fast and you need to give it your undivided attention as you bring it all together at the end.

Hope you enjoy this one and that it becomes part of your recipe repertoire to cook again and again!

Pici Cacio e Pepe

Pici Cacio e Pepe

Yield: serves 2
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes

Ingredients

Pici dough:

  • 200g (1 2/3 cup) strong white (bread) flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp (15g) extra virgin olive oil
  • 90g warm water
  • plain white flour or semolina, for dusting

Cacio e pepe sauce:

  • 60g (1 cup) finely grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 40g (3 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 160ml (2/3 cup) pasta water

Instructions

For the pici dough:

  1. Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Add the oil and water and mix to form a shaggy dough. Tip the contents of the bowl out onto a clean work surface and knead for 6 to 10 minutes until smooth and soft but not sticky or dry.
  2. Place into a resealable sandwich bag and chill for at least 1 hour (or up to 24 hours).


When you're ready to cook, shape the pici:

  1. Once the dough has rested, remove from the bag and place onto a completely clean, dry work surface. It's super important that there is no flour on the work surface or else it will be really hard to roll out the pici!
  2. Pat the dough out into a rectangle about 12 x 20 cm (5 x 8 inches). Use a bench scraper or a butter knife to cut strips of dough which are roughly 6mm (~1/4-inch) wide x 12cm long.
  3. Use your hands, pressing lightly on a strip of dough to roll out into a long worm shape. I like to start with both my hands at the centre of the strip and work outwards whilst rolling back and forth and applying light pressure. Roll until the worm is about 3 to 4mm (~1/8-inch) thick.
  4. Dust a rimmed baking tray with semolina or a light coating of plain white flour. Pick up the dough worm and place onto the sheet.
  5. Ensure there is no flour/semolina residue on your hands and continue to roll out the remaining strips of dough, placing the worms on the baking sheet.
  6. Once your tray has been filled with worms of dough, dust these with some more semolina/plain flour and then gently gather them, lift them up and wrap them around the fingertips of one hand, forming a little bundle. Place this bundle onto the tray.
  7. Continue making worms (and forming nests, as needed) until you've shaped all the dough.
  8. Set aside for up to 20 minutes. If you let these sit for longer you risk them drying out and starting to clump together.

Bring it all together:

  1. Grate your Pecorino or Parmesan cheese and set that aside. Bash the peppercorns in a pestle and mortar (or use a pepper grinder to grind them up) and set those aside too. Have all your other ingredients measured and to hand (except the pasta water as that isn't ready yet).
  2. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to the boil on the stove.
  3. Grab a large frying pan and add the lemon juice, butter and black pepper. Place over a medium heat on the stove.
  4. Gently drop the pici nests into the boiling pot of water - keep the heat here on max until the water comes back to a simmer and set a timer for 5 minutes. Stir gently occasionally to make sure they don't stick together.
  5. Once the pici have been cooking for about 3 minutes, scoop out 160ml (2/3 cup) of that starchy pasta water from the pot they're cooking in. Pour this into the frying pan of butter and turn the heat on the pan down to medium low.
  6. Once the 5 minutes of cooking time is up, use tongs to lift the pici into the frying pan of the pasta water-butter mixture. Sprinkle the grated cheese in an even layer over all of the pasta in the pan. Now this is the key moment - you can't stir this yet!! You have to leave this to cook over a medium-low heat for a couple of minutes. You want the cheese to start melting before you stir it together otherwise it will clump. So, leave it to cook and you'll notice that the cheese starts to melt at the edges first and gradually melts more and more towards the centre of the pan. Once the cheese in the centre is just starting to turn translucent/melty, you can toss the mixture together (I like to use tongs for this).
  7. Let bubble for 1 to 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally, to let the sauce thicken up a bit.
  8. Once the sauce looks thickened but still kind of runny, remove from the heat and divide between two bowls. Serve ASAP! Enjoy!


Have you made this recipe?
I’d love to see how it went! Tag me on instagram @izyhossack and hashtag it #topwithcinnamon so I can have a look & reshare in my stories!

The post Pici Cacio e Pepe appeared first on Izy Hossack - Top With Cinnamon.

Cheesy Artichoke Crostini

A perfect holiday appetizer, these cheesy artichoke crostini feature a creamy artichoke dip-inspired topping atop ultra crispy crostini toasts with a sweet and tangy pepper drop on top. Looking for an easy party dish, perfect for a crowd? Look no further! These artichoke crostini toasts are creamy, crunchy, cheesy and oh so satisfying! This recipe […]

A perfect holiday appetizer, these cheesy artichoke crostini feature a creamy artichoke dip-inspired topping atop ultra crispy crostini toasts with a sweet and tangy pepper drop on top.

Looking for an easy party dish, perfect for a crowd? Look no further! These artichoke crostini toasts are creamy, crunchy, cheesy and oh so satisfying!

Cheesy Artichoke Crostini toasts arranged on a silver baking sheet with a bowl of artichoke topping and pepper drops on the side.

The holidays are all about entertaining, and whether you are hosting your own festive get-together or need a quick and portable dish to bring to the office pot luck, this savory appetizer recipe is just the ticket.

Featuring crisp and buttery crostino toasts topped with a mixture of marinated artichoke hearts and flavorful cheeses baked to golden, bubbly perfection, it’s a recipe that will satisfy all year long.

Overhead view of Artichoke Crostini on a baking sheet lined with newspaper-print parchment paper

The creamy artichoke topping falls somewhere in between a gooey artichoke dip and a traditional artichoke bruschetta, with three kinds of cheeses and a bit of mayo (but not too much!) for an ultra-creamy consistency.

A touch of minced shallot as well as a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, ample black pepper, and the sweet and tangy pepper drop gives it the perfect amount of acid and spice to balance out the rich cheese.

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