I will admit that eating alone, and actually enjoying it, is somewhat of an acquired taste. Cooking just for yourself can be severely unmotivating because a) you know that you don’t need to impress/take care of anyone else; b) no one will reproach you for eating crackers for dinner or plucking something directly out of the jar with the fridge door wide open; and c) after a day of working, commuting, running errands, and overall hustling, it’s hard to muster the courage to dive head first into the kitchen to construct a meal. Once you get home after navigating through bursts of people and cars and buses and potholes, that popcorn and half-empty bottle of Perrier start to look like the best thing you’ve seen all day. In other words, when we’re tired and we know we’ll be dining solo, we usually gravitate towards things that are easy to grab and immediately gratifying (helloooo pickles), ultimately leading us to spoil our appetite for anything more substantial.
But I’m here to tell you that there’s is a better way. Even if you’re feeling capital “L” LAAAZY. Put down the box of Triscuits and allow me to introduce me to your new best friend: Cacio e pepe.
This is one of my go-to meals when I’m feeling completely bagged and uninspired. It takes under 10 minutes to make, it’s warm and comforting and home-made and a gentle reminder of how lone wolfing-it can be, well…nice.
Cacio e pepe (serves 1)
¼ lb good-quality* dried spaghetti, linguini or bucatini
¼ cup (plus 1 Tbsp) very finely grated good-quality parmesan**
freshly ground black pepper
*given the simplicity of this recipe, the quality of the ingredients is paramount. Don’t cheap out. You’ll regret it.
**for dishes like this, grating cheese on a microplane or the smallest holes of your box grater works best – that way the cheese melts as soon as it hits the hot pasta, resulting in a oozy, luscious plate of goodness.
Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente.
Put a medium pot of fresh water to boil; once the water has reached a rolling boil, season with salt and add the pasta.
While the pasta is cooking, fill a deep glass or ceramic dish with hot water and submerge your favourite pasta bowl or plate in the water to warm it up before serving.
Once the pasta is cooked al dente, reserve ¼ cup of the cooking water, and then drain the pasta in a colander. Do not shake off the excess water. Transfer back to the pot, off the heat, and sprinkle with ¼ cup of the cheese and about 1 Tbsp of the cooking water. Mix to combine. Add a little more cooking water if you think the pasta looks dry.
Remove the pasta bowl from the warm water (without drying it) and place the pasta into it. Finish with some freshly ground black pepper and a sprinkling of the remaining cheese. Serve straight away with simple steamed greens or a salad (if desired).