Coming hard on the heels of the last post about a particular vegetarian, one might be tempted to interpret this post.
Do as you like.
It’s nearly Valentine’s Day, that most commercial of Hallmark holidays, and I prefer mine a little grubby.
A little gritty.
Don’t get me wrong: hearts and flowers and romance are all exquisite. Expressions of love in any form are always welcome and definitely needed in the world, at the mico- and macroscosmic levels.
But there is something…raw, vulnerable, visceral…about waking up feeling the previous night’s whiskey and then…feeling the previous night’s date next to you, warm. If you are lucky enough to be unencumbered by children or dogs or any type of responsibility for the day, the possibilities of how to spend that sharply fuzzy morning time together are…endless.
But you’re going to need some food.
When I am feeling the effects of overindulgence, my breakfast usually consists of an anti-nausea pill and some coffee, followed by a long nap and some Gatorade. This has been my MO of late also because I have not had a sleepover in, well, FUCKING FOREVER.
In theory, though, slumber party friend or no, when dinnertime rolls around, it’s on. I need fat, I need carbs, I need strong flavors and lots of them.
Lucky folks in Hampden might convince their sleepytime partner to trot up the The Corner for some kimchi fries to go. If I am being honest, which I always try to be, that place is hipster as fuck, annoyingly so, but I could take a bath in their kimchi fries. They are the perfect combination of salty, spicy, and not too greasy (but still), and one order is never enough.
If I can’t have fries, and I have very little food in the house (which is usually what happens), pasta is the business. But not just any pasta: cacio e pepe. Pasta with pepper and cheese.
Simple. Lusty. Roman peasant food.
The sauce, if you can call it that, is simple: pecorino Romano, freshly cracked black pepper, a little pasta water, and pasta.
In a recipe this basic, ingredients are important. The pasta is important.
Sure, you could go for dried pasta. This is a respectable option, especially when you may possibly be just a little bit drunk still. Fresh pasta from the refrigerated section of the grocery store is another way to go.
That. Yes, there. THAT.
Fresh pasta manages to somehow be an everyday staple food but still sexy as hell. It is simple to make, delicious, not time-consuming once you can figure out how to work the pasta machine (or eliminate that altogether by rolling out your pasta and hand cutting it), and infinitely satisfying in a recipe with such a simple sauce.
Infinitely satisfying, as in how all things should be the morning after the night before, yes?
10 ounces (about two cups) all-purpose gluten-free flour (regular works fine, too)
1 T xanthan gum
1/2 t. salt
2 T olive oil
Combine dry ingredients in food processor and pulse to combine. Add eggs and olive oil and mix until dough forms. You can also use a big bowl, a fork, and some muscle. Or have your lover do this while you watch.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it feels a bit smooth (you aren’t developing gluten, so don’t overdo it. Just really incorporating all ingredients). Shape into a six-inch roll, then cut into six pieces.
Work with each piece individually to either hand cut, or use your pasta machine.
Pro tip #1: Dust pasta with flour before sending it through the pasta machine.
Pro tip #2: Send it through two times on each setting, starting with the widest and stopping when you can see your hand through the pasta.
Technically, cacio e pepe is for spaghetti, but I like linguine, so I use the linguine cutter on my pasta machine.
After you cut your pasta, you can freeze it in little bundles and drop into salted, boiling water for two or three minutes wheneverthefuck you want some fresh pasta, or you can let the little bundles sit around until you’re damn good and ready (about two hours before you need to make a decision about those little bundles).
Damn good and ready?
Bring a pot of salted water to boil. While you are waiting, grate about two cups of pecorino Romano. Boil your pasta for two minutes, reserving about a cup of pasta water. After you drain the pasta, add it to the cheese, and gradually add pasta water, a little at a time. If your sauce is too wet, add cheese. Too dry? Add water.
Salt to taste (even though the cheese is salty you will need more) and grate a TON of black pepper into the bowl. You can finish with a drizzle of best-quality olive oil if you like, then eat it off your fingers (or each other) when you head back to bed.
What’s your favorite hangover menu?