cipollini cacio e pepe.

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glorified buttered noodles of our childhoods.

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who doesn’t love a buttery noodle? lol. i always liked red sauce as a kid, so when i saw friends who didn’t like red sauce on spaghetti putting butter on their noodles i was like oooooooh. butterrrrr. cool.

cacio e pepe is such a delicious, simple yet elevated pasta dish you can put together in about 15 minutes.

the purists don’t use any onion but i used minced cipollini onion in the skillet to pep it up a notch. garlic would also be amazing obviously, but i tried not to stray too far from the traditional basic ingredients.

don’t forget to reserve a cup of the pasta water after cooking the noodles. this step is key!

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when i usually make spaghetti i just toss it with olive oil at the end to keep the noodles from sticking and immediately add red sauce. but if you don’t intend to use pasta sauce, you must reserve some pasta water and toss it with the cooked noodles in a cast iron pan (ideally, cast iron) to keep the noodles smooth and not clumped together. then melt in that cheeeesey goodness and dinna is served.

and extra black pepper and red pepper flakes for me! and a spot of vino, of course.

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gimme that wintery pile of comfort.

Cipollini Onion Cacio e Pepe

Serves 2-3

Total Time: 15 minutes

Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces bucatini or spaghetti noodles

  • kosher salt

  • 3 TB. unsalted butter

  • 1 cipollini onion, minced

  • 2 - 3 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

  • 1 cup shaved parmesan & romano cheese (I found a shaved blend of these cheeses at the store)

  • crushed red chili flakes

Instructions-

Boil 6 cups of water in a medium pot with a big pinch of salt. Once boiling, add the dry noodles and cook 7 or 8 minutes (or to 2 minutes before noodles are actually tender). Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water before straining the noodles.

Mince the cipollini onion. In a cast iron skillet, melt 2 TB of unsalted butter on medium heat and add the onion and 2 tsp. of black pepper. Toss until onions are tender and mixture is fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add 1/2 a cup of the reserved pasta water to the pan and stir. Bring to a simmer. Add the drained noodles and remaining TB of butter to the cast iron pan and toss with tongs to coat the noodles with moisture.

Reduce heat to low and add 1/2 cup of the shaved parmesan cheese, tossing with tongs to melt. Add 1/4 cup of water if the noodles seem dry or sticky. You want the pasta water and cheese to coat the noodles and be smooth.

Add remaining cheese and toss to melt. To me, this part resembles the sticky marshmallow texture when you make rice krispy treats on the stove. Toss with extra black pepper and a pinch of salt if desired.

Serve immediately with crushed red chili flakes, extra shaved parmesan or romano cheese, and basil, if desired.

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cabbage chicken pad thai.

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it’s technically like a no-noodle chicken cabbage pad thai curry, but i didn’t wanna throw you off with a weird long title.

also - super almost vegan (just remove chicken & use alt fish sauce) and super customizable in the veggie or protein department!

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AND… best news ever:

i finally figured out the missing flavor in homemade thai dishes that i’ve been searching for FOR-EV-ER.

i have made thai curries at home over and over and over, adding one new ingredient at a time that i always think will be THE ONE missing link, but it’s never been quite right…

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until now.

i have found it. this is the one.

LIME LEAVES, PEOPLE.

lime leaves.

i should have freakin known. there’s a whole thing in that movie no reservations with catherine zeta jones where she’s a chef and she hauls her chef boyfriend all over town looking for her signature secret ingredient - which ended up being kaffir lime leaves.

i knew it somewhere deep in my head.

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i was actually buying thai basil at the store and admiring these edible flowers. i noticed the box of “lime leaves,” took one sniff and i knew that was the flavor i’ve been searching for.

i pretty much ran home and made this right away. i was so excited to discover how much flavor lime leaves give off when you steep them in coconut milk. it’s such a specific taste and it really makes your homemade thai dishes extra legit.

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this is kind of a “curry” recipe because it has the base of a thai curry - then you add a TON of freshly shredded cabbage which soaks up all the coconut milk and all the salty curry flavors to become noodley! and then voila, it is a cabbage pad thai with ALL the right flavors.

at thai restaurants, pete & i usually order panang curry & chicken pad thai - and i always end up mixing them together a bit, so this recipe is kinda like that idea!

the tenderized cabbage actually does a pretty good impression of noodles in this form. i was so pleasantly surprised! just don’t over cook them so they keep a little bit of that al dente crunch & chewy factor.

plz don’t be intimidated by the ingredients list - you can do itttttt. and once you buy all the thai flavors/spices/jars of various things (fish sauce & red curry paste are just staples around here now!), you’ll be making thai food for daaaays.

think of them as a homemade thai food investment.

No-Noodle Cabbage Chicken Pad Thai

Serves 2-4

Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 large chicken breast, thawed & filleted

  • red chili flakes, salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil.

  • 2 cloves or 1 TB garlic, minced

  • 2 TB fresh ginger, minced (or Gourmet Garden Ginger paste)

  • 1 TB Gourmet Garden Lemongrass paste, optional

  • 2 tsp. tamarind concentrate

  • 1 TB fish sauce

  • 1 1/2 TB. Thai red curry paste

  • 6-8 lime leaves, whole or ripped in half

  • 1 can (14 oz) coconut milk

  • 2 heaping cups green cabbage, thinly shredded with mandoline

  • 2 heaping cups purple cabbage, thinly shredded with mandoline

  • 1/2 a red bell pepper, seeded & sliced

  • 1/2 a green bell pepper, seeded & sliced

  • 1/2 cup broccoli florets, optional

  • mung bean sprouts

  • fresh Thai basil, lots!

  • 1/4 cup peanuts, chopped

  • 1 lime

  • fresh mint or cilantro, optional

Instructions -

Using a mandoline, shred the green & purple cabbage until you have at least 2 heaping cups of each. It should be about half a head of each cabbage. Shred or cut it to about the thickness of noodles (not too thin or the cabbage might get soggy).

In a large pan, cook the chicken breast in 1 TB olive oil and garlic on medium heat, seasoning with salt, pepper, and red chili flakes for spice. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and allow it to rest on a cutting board before slicing.

In the same pan with the chicken & garlic remnants, add the sliced chicken back into the pan with fresh ginger, lemongrass paste (optional), tamarind concentrate, and red curry paste. Toss well to coat. (***Note: If you’re making this recipe using real noodles instead, cut down the salts by half [salt & fish sauce]. There’s extra sodium here to compensate for the large quantity of raw cabbage.)

Add 1 whole can of coconut milk to the pan and stir. Drop in all the lime leaves and some Thai basil to steep as it simmers on medium/low.

Prepare & slice the remaining veggies, herbs, and toppings.

Toss half of the green & purple cabbage in the coconut milk to coat. The liquid should thicken and become almost gravy-like. Add the remaining cabbage, bell peppers, and broccoli, if using. Toss everything to coat using tongs until the cabbage has tenderized and resembles the consistency of noodles. The liquid from the pan should mostly be soaked up into the cabbage “noodles” when it is ready to eat. You may remove the lime leaves before eating if desired - they are pretty tough to chew.

Divide into servings and top with lots of fresh Thai basil, mung bean sprouts, lime wedges & chopped peanuts. Optional: fresh mint, cilantro, or edible flowers for garnish.

Serve immediately and enjoy leftovers within 1-2 days.

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