There we were at one of our favorite San Francisco Italian restaurants. I was looking for some soft pasta since I had just given up a tooth to the Tooth Fairy. I found what I wanted—Cacio e Pepe, a traditional Roman pasta specialty.
When I went to order it, the waitress, who had heard my tooth story, said that the pasta came “al dente” (literally translated as “to the teeth,” meaning it had a little chewiness to it). Ha! We all decided that this time ‘round, my pasta should be cooked until soft. It was perfect.
Since then, I have been looking for Cacio e Pepe recipes, of which there are many. Basically, the pasta has three to four ingredients, depending on which recipe you choose.
- Cheese (Cacio)—Pecorino Romano Cheese/Parmegiano
- Black pepper (Pepe)
- Pasta, like spaghettoni or spaghetti
- And according to some recipes, butter or olive oil.
It’s a deceptively simple recipe but one where technique, timing and finesse are important. I tried Lydia Bastianich’s recipe the other night and it was good. But I can tell I need more practice. I will try other versions, too, as well as return to that restaurant for their fine rendition!
Along with experimenting with this pasta dish, I have also become quite adept at various other soft food options. For breakfast one morning, I made pancakes from the Joy of Cooking …For lunch, there were refried beans and rice, creamed spinach and asparagus soup. Dinner? Steamed Petrale sole and puréed peas and zucchini topped with sliced avocados, instead of my longed for crisp, chewy salads. And last night I prepared Sweet Potato Chowder from a wonderful cookbook called Gatherings from The Forest Feast series by Erin Gleeson. And of course, thank goodness for gelato.
SO…”bring joy to the table” has taken on a different look and feel for me over the last few weeks. Hopefully soon, I’ll be back to my “al dente” best!