The “master list” and Cacio e Pepe

Today after work I went shopping to complete the “master list” at the beginning of Rachel Ray’s “Express Lane Meals” cookbook.  You might want to read this post if you’re not sure why I was following the rules in this particular cookbook.

I walked out with a much lighter wallet, but not specifically because of the master list…I was also shopping for a dinner party Friday night.  Still, I bought things I wouldn’t normally buy (clams) but I’m excited to try some recipes with them.  I’ve now got plenty of broths, pastas, tomato bases (sauce, paste, etc) and cheese.

Tonight’s meal was one of Rachel’s Express Lane recipes:  Cacio e Pepe or, Cheese and Pepper Pasta.  My changes/substitutions are in parentheses.


1 pound spaghetti

3 tablespoons butter (I used 2)

3 tabelspoons EVOO (I used 4)

2 teaspoons coarse black pepper (I didn’t have coarse, so I used 1 tsp)

1 cup grated pecorino romano cheese

1 box (or bag) frozen chopped spinach

3 to 4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 14-ounce can of cannellini or northern beans

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

So start the water heating for the pasta.  In the meantime, chop the garlic and start defrosting the spinach (6 minutes in the microwave on high).  Get a large skillet and put the 2 tbsp of butter, 2 tbsp of oil and the pepper in it.  Heat it over LOW heat and let it hang out while everything else cooks.

Follow the pasta box directions once the water boils.  **You’ll need some of the pasta water at the end.  Don’t forget!  When the pasta is ready add a ladle of the pasta water to the butter mixture.  Careful, it might go a little crazy.  Then turn off the heat.  Add the pasta and toss it with tongs.  Add in the cheese and toss more.  If you need some more cooking water add a bit more then drizzle with some extra EVOO.

While the pasta is doing it’s thing, sautee the garlic in 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat.  Let the garlic cook for 2 minutes then add the drained and rinsed beans.  Put the defrosted spinach in a dish cloth (not paper towels) and wring it out to get out all the moisture.  Careful, it might be hot! Add the spinach to the beans and garlic and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Serve the spinach and beans alongside the pasta.

REVIEW:  I was amazed.  HOW could the pasta have so much flavor?  I ate way more than one serving, I’m pretty sure.  The sauce was light, smoky and really flavorful.  The cheese added the perfect touch.  I added some red pepper flakes just for a kick and they were great too.

I’ll be making this again.  It was SO quick and easy!


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