Harbinger of things to come.
Southern Italy brings us soppresatta and Pecorino Romano.
Provencal France lends oil cured black olives.
I’m one of the guys that tests recipes for Cook’s Illustrated – no big deal, anybody can do it, just sign up and they send you recipes – once a month or so, there’s a new recipe to try. They advise that if it’s something that doesn’t appeal to you, just skip it. No pressure.
They also advise:
This recipe is under development and is intended for Friends of Cook’s recipe testers only. We’re glad you love our recipes, but we respectfully ask that you do not post the working recipe online or in any other media until the final recipe has been published in the magazine. And if you do share the final recipe in a public forum, please remember to give us credit. Thank you.
This recipe – Spaghetti with Pecorino Romano and Black Pepper (Cacio e Pepe) – appealed to me, big time. I decided to pair it with a Mark Bittman recipe from the NY Times – Little Artichokes, Provençal Style. That dinner was just so earthy and fabulous I had to photograph it and tell the world on my blog.
Respecting the wishes of CI, I will not divulge the recipe itself, but I will give you the concept – cook spaghetti, make a sauce of some of the spaghetti cooking water and grated cheese, add a little cream, a little salt and lots of black pepper to the sauce, eat. How simple is that?
With such a simple recipe, it’s really important to spring for the best ingredients. All were available at Cheese Plus, one of my favorite stores, four blocks up Polk Street from my flat.
Rustichella d’Abruzzo spaghetti, made with durum wheat flour and imported from Italy. Yes, it costs six times as much as Barilla-on-sale, but go for it, you’ll be glad you did.
Pecorino Romano cheese, grated on the raspy side of my box grater, makes the sauce. The same cheese, shredded on the big holes of the box grater, is the garnish.
The total cost; about 12 bucks. The water, salt, pepper and cream I had on hand. It feels so good to splurge.
Artichokes Provencal is a simple and inexpensive dish, as well. Artichokes, black olives, cherry tomatoes, garlic and olive oil, simmered in a sauté pan make the dish.
The oil cured olives I got on my short trip to Cheese Plus.
Such a simple meal, and as a bonus, both dishes are meant to be served warm, rather than hot, so there’s no time pressure.
In spite of the ease of cooking and the joy of eating, the prep takes some time and organization. Below is my prep counter before I was ready to light the stove. The cheese was grated and the portions portioned. Dinner was ready in the time it took to boil water, cook the spaghetti and mix the sauce. The Artichokes were peeled and the Provencal cooked in that same time.
I served a Simi Cabernet Sauvignon, a perfect accompaniment to the assertive flavors of the cheese and olives.
An equipment note — I love those enameled metal bowls. They hold about 3 cups and are oh so easy to clean. The bamboo cutting board is a dream to use, it provides an excellent cutting surface, doesn’t scar and wipes clean with a paper towel. I wash it with soap and water while dinner finishes cooking, let it air dry, and its good for the next meal.