Corn Cacio e Pepe

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Happy Mac n Cheese Day! When we realized that was today, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity! We love mac n cheese around here – from the classic Kraft blue box to the most upscale restaurant variation. The dish we made tonight falls somewhere in the middle. The pasta did come from a box – sorry, way too hot and pregnant to make my own pasta tonight – but cacio e pepe always seems a little fancier than American mac n cheese, just by virtue of its non-English name! In reality, Cacio e pepe is just as simple and homey to Italians as our American mac n cheese is to us, but we can always pretend to be fancy! (PS: you can check out our other mac n cheese creations too on this important day of celebration – Summer Mac n Cheese and Goat Mac). This recipe is courtesy of Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, one of Selim’s favorite blogs, who now has a column in our favorite magazine, Bon Appetit! This variation adds corn for a sweet, summery update. If you check out our previous attempt at a classic Cacio e Pepe, we followed some very specific instructions to make our cacio e pepe not fall victim to clumpiness, which worked beautifully. Deb’s recipe is simpler, without additional fat of butter and/or oil, so we decided to try her way this time. It’s not quite as silky as our other recipe, but definitely wouldn’t call it clumpy! Happy with the result and the saving of a few calories. Our only change from her recipe was to add a little Aleppo pepper, which I really enjoyed.

 

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Corn Cacio e Pepe

(Adapted from Bon Appetit)
Ingredients: 
  • 16oz medium sized pasta
  • 3 ears corn
  • 8oz Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, grated
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
  • 2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • Salt
  • [Reserved pasta water]
Instructions: 
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the ears of corn for ~5 minutes and then remove to the side. Once cool enough to handle, slice the kernels off of the cob.
  2. Return the water to a boil and add salt liberally. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.
  3. Drain and set the pasta aside in a large bowl. Reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid.
  4. While the pasta and corn are cooking, combine the cheese and peppers in a medium bowl. Mash together with the 1/3 cup cold water until a thick paste forms.
  5. Combine pasta, corn kernels, and cheese paste. Toss together. Slowly add pasta water, stirring continuously until you reach your preferred sauce-like coating consistency.
  6. Serve topped with additional cheese and pepper as desired.
Serves ~4

Summer Mac n Cheese

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There are some dishes that just scream a certain season to me. A big pot of chili or anything involving a gourd in the fall. Hearty, meat-heavy dishes that are roasted or stewed or crockpot-ed in the winter. But summer… Probably the most seasonally iconic dishes are summer ones! There are just so many – burgers on the grill, corn on the cob, popsicles, salads topped with fruit, triangles of juicy watermelon, and a newspaper-covered picnic table with Old Bay seasoned whole crabs piled on top! Right up there at the top of the summer food list is caprese salad. Fresh, cool, and best with ripe summer tomatoes, caprese salad is definitely quintessential summer fare. So today when coming up with this dish, I thought that the mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil of a caprese salad would make for an interesting summery twist on Mac n cheese!

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We have a caveat to our post today though. Neither of us actually ate this dish. I made it for our friends who just had a new baby! They swear it was good, so we’ll just have to take their word for it. Relatedly, the base Mac & cheese recipe here (also the base for Goat Mac), is a great option if you want to make something ahead to bring to someone! You can make it up until the last baking part and then whomever you bring it to can bake it for the appropriate length of time later (which you may need to increase by 10 minutes or so from the immediate baking time as below).

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Summer Mac n Cheese

  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 5 cups dry small pasta (penne, farfalle, elbows, etc)
  • 16oz mozzarella cheese
  • Salt & pepper
  • ~10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
Instructions:
  1. Pre-heat the oven 400 degrees.
  2. Heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat until very lightly simmering. Meanwhile, bring a large pot over water to a boil.
  3. Once the large pot of water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente.
  4. In another saucepan, melt the butter over low-medium heat. When the butter has melted, begin to slowly whisk in the flour. When the flour is absorbed, remove the pan from the heat.
  5. Meanwhile, place the grape tomatoes in a bowl and toss them with the olive oil, 3 chopped basil leaves, and salt & pepper.
  6. Roast them on a small sheet pan for ~15 minutes, until they are just starting to wrinkle and split. Remove from the oven.
  7. Moving back to the stove, slowly whisk all of the milk into the mixture. (It will initially get incredibly thick, then begin to thin out.)
  8. When all of the milk has been added, return the pot to medium heat and whisk continuously for ~3 minutes.
  9. Now add in the cheese and continue whisking.
  10. When sauce has come together, combine the sauce with the pasta and place in baking dish. Top with the tomatoes and remaining basil.
  11. Bake for just an additional 10 minutes, so it all firms up.
Serves 6-8

Goat Mac

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My sister and I share a love of all things carbs, with a special place in our hearts for mac and cheese of any variety. Awhile back, I found a cookbook solely devoted to mac and cheese and gave it to her for her birthday or Christmas or something. (Which is not as good as a present she once gave me – it was an orange t-shirt with two cartoon cows dancing on it, with the words “I LOVE CARBS!”)

The recipe we’re sharing today originated with that mac & cheese cookbook. I made my sister send me screenshots from several options in the cookbook and settled on this one. We were very happy with our selection. Despite retaining the cheesiness of a standard mac & cheese, this feels slightly lighter. I mean, it’s certainly not low calorie, but the tanginess of the goat cheese just gives you a different sensation. I love goat cheese in any form, so definitely enjoyed this! I went light on the panko crust which worked for us. My only complaint at the end was that the finished product looked a little monotone in my pictures – so not really an actual problem!

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We had this dish this weekend when our favorite Georgians came to visit us in Virginia! We had a great weekend, with some delicious food, a few roaring fires, some trap shooting, some wandering in the woods, and a fun day of Virginia wine/beer/cider tasting with stops at King Family Vineyards, Blue Mountain Brewery, Bold Rock Cider, and Devil’s Backbone Brewing! And, of course, we enjoyed visiting with our friends! They all approved of this recipe, so hopefully you will too!


Goat Mac

(Adapted from The Mac + Cheese Cookbook)
Ingredients:
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 5 cups small pasta (penne, farfalle, elbows, whatever)
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 12 oz goat cheese
  • 4 oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup + Panko bread crumbs
Instructions: 
  1. Pre-heat the oven 400 degrees.
  2. Heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat until very lightly simmering. Meanwhile, bring a large pot over water to a boil.
  3. Once the large pot of water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente.
  4. In another saucepan, melt the butter over low-medium heat. When the butter has melted, begin to slowly whisk in the flour. When the flour is absorbed, remove the pan from the heat.
  5. Slowly whisk all of the milk into the mixture. (It will initially get incredibly thick, then begin to thin out.)
  6. When all of the milk has been added, return the pot to medium heat and whisk continuously for ~3 minutes.
  7. Now add the garlic, shallots, both cheeses, and salt to the pan and lower the heat to low-medium. Stir frequently until the cheeses are well-incorporated.
  8. Finally, add the pasta to the sauce and stir until all of the noodles are coated and distributed equally.
  9. Pour all of this into a rectangular glass baking dish. Top with panko crumbs. We only used a light coating, ~1/4 cup, but feel free to make a thicker layer if desired.
  10. Bake for ~10 minutes. Serve when hot and bubbly, and when the panko is lightly toasted.
Serves 6-8