I’ve mentioned before that almost never cook anything that makes fewer than four servings. It doesn’t make sense in small kitchen. Ingredients are sold in larger portions than are needed for just one or two servings, so I’d be stuck trying to find a place to store all the leftover bits and pieces.
However, there are exceptions to this rule. One of my favorites is spaghetti cacio e pepe. “Cacio e pepe” literally means “cheese and pepper.” It’s a meal that’s made with four simple ingredients that I always have on hand—Parmesan cheese (traditionally, the meal is made with the slightly more expensive Pecorino Romano, but Parm works just as well, in my opinion), fresh ground black pepper, butter, and pasta (I prefer thin spaghetti with this sauce, but any shape will do). That’s it. I will often buy some lettuce for a salad just to give the meal some freshness. Arugula is an especially nice companion as the pepperiness of the leaves matches the pepperiness of the pasta.
What’s even better about this recipe is that though the sauce is fantastic on its own, there are a ton of variations you can make with the same simple base. Want a bit more protein? Add some sautéed chicken breast! Want to make even more decadent? Fry up some bacon and crumble it in! Want to make it a bit healthier? Throw in some veggies and make it a primavera! One night I made it with lima beans and mushrooms, and it was fabulous. The only limitation is your personal taste.
I’ve made this recipe for one, two, or four, but you could make it for a crowd if you were so inclined. It’s so decadent and creamy that I guarantee you no one will have any idea how quick and easy it was to make.
Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe
(Based on Bon Appétit’s Recipe)
4 oz. thin spaghetti
2 Tbsp. butter, divided
Heaping 1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
Heaping 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook one minute less than the directions say. Reserve 2 cups of the pasta water before draining.
Melt 1 1/2 Tbsp. butter in a non-stick pan. Add pepper and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Remove from pan and set aside.
Cut remaining 1/2 Tbsp. butter into small pieces and mix into Parmesan cheese. Add in 1/2 cup of the hot pasta water and stir. Add more water as necessary to reach a slightly thick liquid consistency (think turkey gravy).
Return drained pasta to the pot, over low heat. Add the Parmesan sauce, the pepper, and 2 Tbsp. of pasta water. Toss until pasta is well-coated and glistening, adding pasta water one tablespoon as a time until desired consistency is reached.
Serve with a salad and crusty Italian bread.