20 years ago, I moved to Italy for a year – living first in Siena, then Padova (here I am above at Lake Como). I had daydreamed about Italy since high school, after watching Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty (the modern day film equivalent would be Call Me By Your Name), and started learning Italian in my first semester of college. By year two I was ready to get the hell out of my small college town and travel the world!
It was my first time in Europe and I fondly look back on it and think, "damn that was awesome." The experience gave me a western world view – historically, culturally, and culinarily (I barely made it through those meals in the first month – all those dishes! All that wine! All that time at the table! Send help!!). It was a time before social media, digital cameras, smartphones, and the Euro. Everything was dirt cheap, so I was able to travel all over Italy and Europe with my friends, a backpack, and international student card for deep discounts on overnight trains, grungy hostels, and bad beer. Damn, that was awesome.
Roma remains one of my favorite cities in the world. It's so cliche I know, but it is like no other place. Actually it does remind me of Tokyo, especially the people. Nonchalant and rough, serious yet so so funny. Romans live each day like, "hey, life is hard but let's enjoy it, capisci?."
Since there were no digital cameras, I took photos on my SLR, and I fashioned myself to be quite the film photographer! The top photo is me at Lake Como. Here are some photos of Roma that I took that are framed at my parent's house. Che citta bella!
Roma is charming yet gritty – sprawling, cinematic, wild. And cats everywhere. And art! There is nothing like seeing Caravaggios and Berninis in real life. It is mind altering!
And of course the food is amazing, I don't have to tell you that. You seriously can't get edible bread until you get to Rome (it's all breadsticks and dried out crackers in northern Italy - sorry, it's true). The food is rich and hearty and che madonna, some of the best pasta you'll eat in your life (the other best food town being Bologna).
Caccio e pepe is a simple Roman pasta dish of caccio (local dialect for cheese) and pepper. Definitely a lazy dish, so right up my alley. Since there are only four ingredients, you really want them to be the best quality possible. But since this is a Lazyass Cookin' post, we're not going fancy and we're using what we have! With Ramen Kosho!
Half box of pasta
2 cups of Pecorino Romano
0.5 tbsp S&B Ramen Kosho
3 tbsp butter
0.5 cup pasta water
1. Grate cheese with microplane or cheese grater. The finer you can get the cheese, the better (less clumping when mixing).
Pecorino is the preferred cheese but if you only have parmiggiano, no one will know. This is lazy!
2. Boil water and put in pasta. If I was going fancy, I would use fresh bigoli, a fat spaghetti, from Bottega in Oakland.
But let's keep it lazy. I like De Cecco for boxed pasta. I stopped using Barilla years ago when they announced that they are anti-gay. Che cazzo fai?!
3. You want to boil the pasta until about 2 minutes underdone, because we're going to keep cooking it once it's strained. But don't forget the MOLTO IMPORTANTE step of scooping out a half cup of that precious pasta water!
4. Strain pasta. You're supposed to do these next steps in a heavy bottom pan but I'm keeping it LAZY and using the same pot. Who wants to clean another pan?!?
Melt half the butter.
5. Once melted, add the Ramen Kosho (pepper, in Japanese) into the pasta.
I'm usually a purist and love fresh cracked pepper but Ramen Kosho has some dried onions and garlic in it (and no MSG!) so it adds a nice kick to this dish.
6. Add strained pasta, the pasta water, and rest of the butter.
7. Add grated cheese. It's gorgeous!
8. Incorporate all ingredients with tongs.
9. Plate with Ramen Kosho and cheese at hand for those who want more zip.
Serve this alongside steak, shrimp scampi, or a simple salad.
10. Watch out for pesky mice who will eat all your cheese if they could. (This was not staged).