Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cheap Eats, Day Two (or Three)

Back in November of 2007, when I didn't know anyone in town, I signed up to go to an Italian wine and cheese pairing seminar at Brie & Bleu. I was apprehensive because at this point I didn't know how much I would come to love Brie & Bleu and Thames River and had no idea what I was in for. I needn't have worried - not only did I get to drink some really fabulous Italian wine and eat fresh mozzarella and poached pears and gorgonzola, I also met some nice people (and Joanne, one day we will meet up for that drink!)

Flash forward a year and several months, and here I am, trying desperately to make a week's worth of dinners out of stuff already in my cupboards (spurred on by $700 worth of car repairs). You would not think that Brie & Bleu's Italian wine and cheese seminar would immediately come to mind under these circumstances. Yet...that is exactly what happened.

I was staring at a package of organic spaghetti and a jar of Newman's Own vodka sauce in a very uninspired manner when I randomly remembered eating spaghetti at the Italian wine night. Even better, I remembered it being described as a "dish you make when you have nothing else in the house." So I dug through the old wooden Drambuie box I use to hold my cooking magazines and computer print-outs of recipes until I found the notes from the wine seminar.

There it was. Spaghetti with Pecorino Romano cheese and fresh cracked pepper. Three ingredients, all of which could be found in my kitchen at that moment.

The technique was simple: put some water in a pot on the stove, salt generously, bring to a boil. Throw in the spaghetti and cook until al dente. While the spaghetti was cooking, I used a hand grater to grate a mound of cheese. Drain the spaghetti and let sit for a minute - the sitting is important, because you don't want the cheese to melt (which it will do if the pasta is too hot), but rather to cling to the pasta. Toss the pasta and grated cheese together, add a LOT of fresh cracked pepper, toss some more, and put on a plate with some garlic baguette. YUM.

So simple, yet so incredibly delicious. And I was using a hunk of cheese from the supermarket cheese counter - I can only imagine what this would have tasted like if I had a higher-quality piece of cheese to work with. Don't let the fact that there's only three ingredients and no sauce deter you - this dish is not bland. Resist the temptation to add olive oil, butter, or pasta water - it will interfere with the way the cheese and pepper cling to the spaghetti and mess with the overall texture. The dish is not too dry, I promise! (Plus, you can always pour a glass of Inama Soave to help it go down.)

Anyway, I know I have been doing a lot of food blogging lately, but my cheap supper last night was so easy and so good I just had to share. I hope you will give it a try!


Joanne said...

Do you still the menu from that evening? I can't find mine and there was a cheese on there that I loved and I can't remember what it was.

Becky said...

I'm going to keep this in mind because I hate anything tomato based, so I don't usually put sauce on my pasta. This might be a good alternative.