Dinner Without Trying

What if I told you that I have a go-to, delicious, and easy dinner option for you which requires less ingredients than a box of mac’ n’ cheese and tastes at least 837 times better? 


Wha, wha, whaaaaaatttt?


I know, too good to be true but it is. 


Just. Listen, do yourself a favor. Stop what you’re doing right now and read this for two seconds. OK, two minutes.


Cacio e Pepe. Pronounced “ca-chio ee paypae.” Italian for, well, I don’t know, but probably, “most eligible bachelor of pasta.”



Cacio e pepe is something my bro Josh has chattered about to me for awhile and honestly I’ve waved the chatter away like a pesky fly. Until now. I finally tried it this week because he kept saying it was so easy and frankly I am out of ideas for dinner anymore around here. 

3 things should be noted about C ‘n’ P. 

  • There are only three ingredients if you don’t count water and salt, and who would even count those? 
  • It basically takes as long to make as it takes pasta to cook, ie, 15 minutes. It doesn’t even make sense to the human mom brain. (perhaps this is why it took me so long?)
  • The pepper part is really not spicy, even to my kids who are especially tender about spicy stuff. It’s more…flavorful. And that’s a direct quote from my most tenderest child. 

I finally made it yesterday. Now, I did hype it up by watching a YouTube how-to video with the kids. They love food more when they get to help make it, especially when it involves grating and crushing stuff.

Here are some quotes from dinner:

“This pasta is better than all the other pastas.”

“Can I have this in my lunchbox tomorrow?”

“I am happy to see you are having thirds. It makes me feel less bad about having thirds also.”

When asked if this is better than mac ’n’ cheese:

“It’s 10,000 times better.”

“It’s google plexion better.”

Bottom line: 5 out of 5 Pascals approve this dinner, and that just doesn’t happen very often, so when it does, you KNOW it’s good. 

*Next Day*

“Can we have that pasta again for dinner?” Said three hungry kids to one tired and haggard mama. 

2 thoughts Haggard Mama had:

  1. I mean, at least it’s easy to make.
  2. Who would be sad about eating this again? Certainly not me. 


And so, all the children and Haggard Mama had C ‘n’ P for the third meal in two days. And no one cried and everyone rejoiced. 

When said children were asked to clarify if it really was better than Annie’s mac ‘n’ cheese, one replied through muffled mouthfuls of pasta,” Who’s Annie?”


I rest my case. 


Are you intrigued? I thought so. 


Ok, gird your loins folks because you’re in for a life-changer! 


Ingredients to gather:

  • 1lb pasta- bonus points for hand made, thick cut pasta like pice or tagilatelle or something. I used the organic spaghetti from Costco because I am feeding a small army and I get 8 to a pack.
  • 1 cup pecorino romano (YES, get the good stuff from the deli and grate it yourself. You will never be able to melt the insufferable cheese rods already grated in the bag).
  • FRESH cracked pepper. I learned from the podcast Weeknight Cooking with New York Times food writer Melissa Clark (y’all should check it out) that already-ground pepper is tasteless and useless. I dare you to try it. Either get one of those grinder things or if you have a mortar and pestle- which I do because I am fancy- just grind them up in there.


I mean, it’s not even really a recipe, but here goes:

  1. Boil water in a large saucepan, like a 12-inch fry pan. Trust me, I boiled it in a large stock pot the first time and this is better. You want that gooey pasta water, so the more concentrated the better. 
  2. Cook your pasta to al dente, with some salt thrown in for seasoning (like a couple teaspoons or so. Don’t measure, just throw a bit in). Now, if you are old-times American and you like your pasta mushy to the point that it breaks apart as you are serving it, please try it the other way. Al dente means firm to the bite. Not chewy, but certainly not mushy. With texture, my friends, similar to how we should live our lives.
  3. While the pasta cooks, turn on music, pour glass of wine, grate cheese, and crush peppercorns. Trust me, there is plenty of time to do all of this in this order. 
  4. Ok. Now here’s the important part. Take the pan off the heat and drain off ALMOST all the pasta water and RESERVE it.  I like to pour mine into a large pyrex measuring cup. Now pour some pasta water (ie, Italian cooking champagne) into a bowl with the cheese. How much? I dunno, just enough to melt the cheese into a cheesy sauce. Pour that into the pasta with the pepper and mix with tongs or what-have-you. You will know the pasta is ready when the sauce becomes “silky” and it “sounds right,” according to the Italian Food Network Goddess Giada. Basically, if it sounds like a gooey mess, you nailed it. If not, add a bit more pasta water but don’t overdo. If you do, add more cheese. It is very forgiving. Eventually you will get it right. 
  5. DEVOUR. End of story.

There you have it. Dinner for the next month or until your pants don’t fit. Roasted vegetables and other accoutrements optional. 





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