Pastas are best made simple where the fresh ingredients can truly showcase their taste and they should not be overmix with too strong a spice. That is rule no 1 I learn about making a good pasta dish here in Venice. Rule no 2 is – when the recipe calls for sauteing the garlic and olive oil, it is not stir frying – for most of us, Asians we think they are the same thing. It is all about tossing the pasta with the warm aromatic oil or sauces. Not stir frying them until they are dry! Rule no 3, don’t be shock if you think pasta is a whole meal of its own and you find rarely any meat in them. It is primo piatto, first course – in Italy, the meat part of the meal comes in the secondo – your second course.
Here are 2 of my favourite roman pasta – cacio e pepe and carbonara.
Cacio e Pepe (for 2)
- 200-250 g of spaghetti
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup of pecorino romano , grated fresh
- black pepper (freshly ground)
- 1 tbp of olive oil
- reserve 1 cup of boiling pasta water
Cook the spaghetti (thick spaghetti is best) in slightly salted water with 2 table spoon of olive oil according to the instructions on the packet.
When al dente (there should still be a bite to the pasta), drain & keep about 1 cup of the cooking water from the pasta.
Heat oil in a saucepan, add a generous sprinkling of black pepper. Leave aside on warm heat, not hot!
Meanwhile in a bowl blend the grated cheese and the pasta cooking water 1/2-3/4 cup and a little more if the mixture is still stringey, blend it well until creamy but a watery creamy consistency.
Drain and toss the spaghetti into the pan with warm oil on low-medium heat, pour in the creamy cheese mixture, stir well the spaghetti in the sauce until the pasta starch binds the sauce and pasta well , add a little more pasta water if consistency gets too dry and stringey. Simmer for about 1-2 mins, till sauce thickens and coats the pasta nicely.
Serve very hot, add more freshly ground black pepper.
Carbonara (for 2)
* due to the raw egg content, not suitable for pregnant ladies or persons with low immune system.
- 250 g of spaghetti or tagliatelle
- 60 g of pancetta or bacon cut into cubes
- 2 egg yolk and 1 whole egg (S or M size eggs) – pasteurised*
- 2 tbp of cream
- 50 g of pecorino cheese grated
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbp of olive oil
Heat up the oil in a pan on medium heat and fry the bacon til the fat oozes out and bacon pieces are crispy but not burnt! Switch off the heat. Leave aside
In a bowl large enough to toss the pasta, put the eggs and cream and whisk it well, add the cheese and black pepper. Mix well , finally put in the bacon pieces. Add salt to taste if desired ( I don’t)
Cook the spaghetti in salted water with a table spoon of olive oil according to the instructions on the packet.
When al dente (there should still be a bite to the pasta), drain but not too well, pour the pasta immediately into this bowl and toss well with the eggy, cheesy sauce.
Add extra pecorino cheese and black pepper if desired. Serve hot.