Cheap Ass Monday: The nostalgia, she is filling.

To be upfront: The National Egg Council did not pay me to make this dinner or write this post.  But if anyone from the National Egg Council is reading and would like to pay me retroactively, I would be open to that.  Just getting that out there.

I feel like I have to get all pasta-related Cheap Ass meals in in March, because of my own self-imposed “no pasta” rule for April’s Recession Special: Hobo Mondays.  Also, I needed something I could make relatively quickly after I got buried under a pile of work that kept me at the office roughly ten thousand hours longer than I’d planned and I needed to produce some food before Brian left for band practice at 8:15 because otherwise I get 3 housefrau demerits.  I already have nearly a thousand and that’s when they take your strand of pearls away, so I have to tread carefully.

Literally, ten thousand hours.  Wait, is that not possible?  I have been thoroughly misled as to the definition of literally!  Americans and your horrific command of the rules of grammar, I wag my finger at you for leading me down this path.  Before you know it will be acceptable to end sentences with prepositions, at which point I will have no option but samurai-style seppuku. Wait, it already is?  HOLY SHIT. PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER, AMERICA. Truly, we are a nation without shame. Now, go get a dictionary and look up the words “figuratively” and “metaphorically.”  Please leave a comment in which you use them properly in a sentence so I know you can be trusted.

Sorry.  Grammar.  Eggs.  Roman-style pasta cacio e pepe. Not related, I know.  I just get a little testy; and here I was, thinking I was so civilized as I blog with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons on in the background instead of an America’s Top Model mararthon.

Anyway:  Pasta.  Quick and easy.  A Roman classic.  If you’ve ever been to Rome, you must have eaten this (if you didn’t, you should probably ask yourself: was I really in Rome, or was that a dream I had?), and it will transport you back to the trattoria at which you ate it.  If you’ve never been to Rome, you should make this, eat it while looking at a picture of Rome and then start saving your money for a plane ticket.  You’ll be able to do that, since this meal costs negative dollars to produce.  With the current exchange rate, I believe that’s equivalent to absolute zero Euros.

Cacio e pepe is, literally, cheese and pepper.  That’s it.  And with good ingredients, that’s all you need:  some salty, ever-so-slightly funky pecorino, some biting but slightly floral freshly cracked black pepper, a little butter and olive oil and pasta.  Combined with some of the pasta cooking water – I remembered to save it! – the cheese melts into a silky sauce that totally fools you into thinking it contains cream.

I boiled up some linguini, and while they drained tossed a little butter, some olive oil and pepper into the hot cooking pot.  I added the hot pasta back, and started tossing.  (There’s a lot of tossing, so be prepared.)

Next, I added some more pepper (it just didn’t look like there was enough), the cheese and some pasta water and tossed, tossed, tossed.

I am deeply ashamed of the cheese that I used. I mean, it wasn’t like the shaker-cheese-that-shall-not-be-named, the one in the green canister.  But it was pre-grated, and not of the highest quality.  Since there are so few ingredients in the dish, I’d wanted really good cheese, but the whole ten thousand hours at work* prevented me from having time to walk down to Whole Foods or hopping a train to Murray‘s to pick up some good stuff. It was probably just as well, as I am incapable of going to Murray’s and not blowing my entire month’s food budget, but it did mean inferior cheese.  Still, it was salty and had an acceptable amount of funk, so I managed to work through the pre-gratedness.

While I was tossing – not vigorously enough apparently – some of the cheese glommed together into a scary looking mass nearly 2 inches in diameter.  I dared Brian to eat it and am still a little shocked and disappointed that he didn’t.  I mean, we’re talking about a man who once took a fried mushroom cap, removed the mushroom, filled the remaining cup-shaped fried thing with ranch dressing and ate it.  In public.  As a grown up.

He’s really losing his edge.

*Literally. I mean, like, my GOD.

Not only did I have the foresight to save some pasta water, but I ALSO thought to put the pasta serving bowls in the warming drawer to heat a little before dinner.  That ought to get me a few hausfrau points back, so my grip on the pearls is slightly less tenuous.  I also tried to make cute little nests out of the pasta, with varying degrees of success (i.e., none).

Cacio e pepe, delicious as it is, is just pasta and will leave you hungry shortly after you’ve eaten it unless you eat more of it than you really should.  So I decided to use my MAD EGG-POACHING SKILLZ to add a little protein, because runny egg yolk mixed into warm cheesy pasta is one of the most wonderful things ever.  Also because I love to poach eggs.  That is the manner in which I roll.

The end product could be cacio e pepe, or it could be a really stripped-down carbonara (which has the egg and cheese but also bacon and onions, possibly making it the superior dish).  My verdict: Who gives a flying fuck if it tastes good, as this did?  The cheese and pasta water combined, as they have since time immemorial, to produce a shockingly creamy sauce.  The salty cheese and crunchy flecks of pepper played perfectly off one another.  The egg, once smooshed into the pasta, added to the silky consistency as the runny yolk coated the linguini  The chives were a useless garnish used only for color contrast purposes, as is their main use in cookery (although Brian chopped his into the pasta and was quite the fan).

I can’t help but feel a little sad when I eat meals like this, because it reminds me that the entire maternal side of my family is in southern Italy and I am in New Jersey, and I’m too fricking broke to go see them; it’s been almost 4 years.  I mean, I would miss them regardless of the too-expensive-to-get-to locale in which they lived, so the whole southern Italy v. New Jersey thing is just a little salt in the wound.  Since my mom’s gone, I’m the sole American outpost of the Giannachi family, and it can be a little tough, especially since my stupid brother and sister also fled the state. (Technically, half-brother and sister – although I’ve never thought of them that way – so they don’t carry the weight of the Giannachi line.  There are a lot of cousins, so that weight is not inconsiderable).

It will take me literally a million years to save up the money to visit again. LITERALLY.

Thus, I must console myself with the gelato that awaits me in the freezer.  I think it will help, since it’s the best of all possible gelato flavors: hazelnut.  I will brook no argument on this point.

I am not writing a recipe for this because (1) I really want to be eating gelato while watching The Colbert Report; (2) it has, literally, 5 ingredients, none of which really require any measuring and (3) you should have all the makings of it in your house. (ALWAYS keep a good Italian grating cheese around. Learn from my errors.)

Buona notte.

0 thoughts on “Cheap Ass Monday: The nostalgia, she is filling.

  1. Damn, that looks so good I want to vomit up the irish stew I made for dinner, just so I can make and eat this.

    Plus, the it is in keeping with my toddlers current strict “no vegies” policy.

  2. First, I would just like to note that my computer got fucked up somehow and the font on this site is showing up tenny tiny and weird and it hurts my eyes, but I STILL READ. That’s dedication, right there. Also ignorance and laziness because I haven’t figured out how to fix the font problem yet, but whatever.

    Second, I think your pasta nests look darling. Especially that first photo of the pasta nest with what amounts to an embryonic bird in the middle. How very appropriate.

  3. My husband was reading this when I came downstairs this morning, and I said “uh?” and he said “. . . poached eggs in . . . pasta nests?”

    He LITERALLY said that. Ellipses and everything.

    Except the ellipses are metaphorical.

  4. “The cheese and pasta water combined, as they have since time immemorial, to produce a shockingly creamy sauce. The salty cheese and crunchy flecks of pepper played perfectly off one another. The egg, once smooshed into the pasta, added to the silky consistency as the runny yolk coated the linguini.”

    When I read this, I was struck by the sheer awesomeness of the description. This is culinary poetry! Poetry, I say. An 8.0 on the Richter Scale of Food Description Munificence.

    Whatever magazine that received your article should be humbled by their good fortune. And send you wads of cash so that you might reconnect with your southern Italian heritage.

  5. That looks good, and I don’t even eat eggs. However, I will be cooking it for my wife very soon, literally. Remember the commercial for some internet car site wherein the lady says that with this website you can literally test drive the vehicles you are looking at? I always wondered how that worked. Do they fed-ex you the car so you can test it? I do, however, feel that I can literally taste the food you describe in your posts! Highlight of my day!

  6. mmmm….eggs on things….

    Growing up, it was a favorite and very traditional “country” thing of my grandfather’s to put an egg on just about anything. *Country, as in the Cuban hills…lol

    favorites of his were egg poached in the soup, and my personal favorite, fried egg over, or egg cast into the rice leftover from the night before. to this day, i love rice with my eggs for breakfast. i even sautee the rice a bit in the skillet with whatever’s around, and just crack the egg in it. MMM 100% comfort.

  7. What kind of a heathen pasta slut are you? Onions in Carbonara? Shame. Shame! You literally made my head explode.

    This dish looks great, although Lupa makes it pretty damned well, so the competition is pretty stiff.

  8. I too run the risk of blowing my entire monthly food budget when it comes to Murray’s. It is very hard to control one’s self in that mecca of tasty.
    I once bought some burrata from Murray’s and it was AWFUL. No gooey oozy hybrid mozzarella-ricotta bliss inside. Just a hard nub of something. I recently bought some from Salumeria Rosi on the UWS and it was BLISSFUL! Crusty bread + stretchy oozy burrata innards + drizzle good olive oil = H E A V E N. There, there’s my contribution to cheap-ass anything, only the cheese is $11 but you won’t care because it’s THAT GOOD.

    Note: they get it delivered directly from Italy once a week, usually Wed or Thurs, and it is usually sold out by Saturday. Just a warning.
    Now I have to figure out what to do with myself until Thursday when I can buy more crack/burrata.

  9. kickpleat, thanks. good to see you around (and congrats again on the win)!

    soylent, please don’t. really. just make it tonight instead. it will be less traumatic for everyone, your toddlers included.

    cameron, that’s one of my rules of thumb. oddly, once the yolk is fully cooked i find it completely disgusting.

    gammyp, it’s true. i’ve never tried to poach an egg in bacon grease (although i’m not averse to trying).

    kristin, first, i don’t know why everything is teeny for you, but i appreciate your dedication to the cause. second, the somewhat creepy symbolism of that photo never occurred to me. maybe i was thinking too literally.

    toylady, you just blew my mind, figuratively speaking.

    aldyth, well, the editor was humbled enough by the munificence that he emailed me to ask it i’d mind if they published it in their sister magazine as well, pending the publishers approval. unfortunately, i do not get paid twice.

    brian, that commercial makes me want to throw a shoe at the television. a heavy one. a boot, even.

    vera, i could never get into eggs in soup, i think just because it looks kinda weird. eggs in rice though, for sure.

    IANAC, yes, onions. onions make everything better.

    mayk, and i love you for loving me for my love of eggs.

    chessa, you are killing me. i require that for dinner. or lunch. or second lunch. or something, because i LOVE burrata.

    i’m sorry you had a disappointing murray’s experience. and kinda shocked, i’ve never gotten anything there that hasn’t been fantastic.

  10. When I was an undergrad, I worked for the admission office of my university’s (extremely prestigious) medical school. My job was to deal with the thousands of application files – pulling them when people came in for interviews, adding all the records they sent in, etc. I, of course, read the files as I worked. Once I had a thank-you note from an interview that I was putting in an applicant’s file that read in part, “I was literally blown away by the kindness shown to me during my visit.”

    You really do have to look out for those errant gusts of kindness, you know. They’ll send you flying down the street if you’re not careful.

  11. My assignment: “Although one cannot, figuratively speaking, “fill up on nostalgia”; one can, at least metaphorically, be satiated by it.”

    …how’d I do? That was tougher than I thought it would be.

  12. Lydia B was gushing about Burrata on her PBS show the other day, i thought she was going to eat the whole frikin platter….man, I love that lady.

  13. Oh wow. I love this and I love carbonara, you combined both.. for when I’m too cheap for bacon. Yes! And don’t be ashamed, I buy the pregrated romano all the time at Trader Joes cause I’m lazy that way. And I am boycotting Whole Paycheck cause their parking lot sucks ass, and Mother’s Market (crunchy health food store) near us is creepy because they don’t sell any meat but chicken.. that’s just wrong.

  14. This, minus the egg, plus soy sauce is my boyfriend’s favorite meal. I was skeptical until I tried and hooo boy, is that shit good! All salty and umami-ish…Next time we choose to eat on the cheap I’m totally throwing a poached egg in there, it’s exactly what it needs!

  15. What is it about just-cooked-enough eggs?!? If you ever get to New Mexico, when they offer you an egg on your enchilada say ‘hell yeah’.

    And manoman do you have a way with the words.

  16. holly, so it is written, so it shall be done.

    emily, i once lost my favorite hat when i was literally washed away in a wave of sympathy.

    deacon, i believe you mean, “i too wish to roll in a similar manner.”

    jenertia, well played, my friend. well played.

    vera, she probably did, once the cameras stopped rolling. that is the beauty of lidia. she is NO HOLDS BARRED.

    erika, i’m sorry, but i can’t not be ashamed of the cheese. i tried, but every time i open the fridge the little tub is sitting there, mocking me.

    aj,i’m slightly skeptical about the soy sauce, but i’m going to trust you on that one.

    sf, i will eat just about anything with a bare-cooked egg on it. pasta, enchilada, sandwiches, a different egg. and now, i must find a restaurant that will make me an enchilada with an egg of top.

  17. 10,000 hours at work. Yep. Yep yep.


    My kind of meal for just that very same reason. That and the fact that it tastes so fucking awesome. Tomorrow…

  18. Thank you for this. I made it for dinner tonight and it was truly of the yum. I can only imagine, once I get my timing down a bit better and (perhaps) perfect my own mad poaching skillz, it will be even better! I will refrain from telling you the kind of cheese I used, as I think you might literally die of horror, but still. ‘Twas good.

  19. Your Cheap Ass Monday became our…. I don’t know. Wide Ass Wednesday?

    Anyway, thanks for the idea for a fantastic dinner last night. The poached egg on top of the pasta was something I’d never seen before, but boy am I glad I know about it now!

  20. I made this last night, without the egg. SOO freaking delicious! Planning on doing it again tomorrow night with the egg (I’m feeling a little more adventurous after my initial test!); thanks for the inspiration. :~)

  21. Pingback: thursday night smackdown » TNS: And I wore pink cowboy books while I cooked.

  22. Pingback: thursday night smackdown » Happiness is a Warm Gun

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