You’ll want to make this one. Tonight maybe. Tomorrow definitely.
As summer wanes, I have been craving cozier foods. Comes with the territory, right? September hits and warm spices (I can’t call it Pumpkin spice, because lets be honest– people don’t want the actual flavor of pumpkin– they want cinnamon, clove, cardamom, and brown sugar) are everywhere you look, the weather gets colder. Iced coffee is swapped for an extra cup of hot coffee or a chai tea. This pasta is no exception. (Almost) gone are the days of light pastas with olive oil, tomatoes and basil– and in are cheesy comfort meals, made to get you through the shortened days and the cooling temps.
This dish you guys….it’s so good. It’s warm, peppery, cheesy goodness and it comes together in less than 30 minutes so you can eat it on a Wednesday if you want!
Cacio e pepe is such an old classic flavor combo and it’s been in the back of my mind nagging me to make a delicious meal out of it. I have been craving gnocchi it all its pillowy goodness and a peppery cheese sauce seemed like the perfect blanket for it. I added some crispy salty pancetta, tossed the cooked gnocchi in the rendered pancetta fat to add a little crispyness and texture to the gnocchi, and then some peppery baby arugula mixed in to add a bit of freshness and bite at the end.
What you get at the end is essentially a cozy sweater in a bowl. You can kind of imagine yourself curling up on the sofa watching a movie eating this meal. It’s weeknight friendly, kid friendly, and all around just a cozy. I plan on adding this to the weeknight routine on the regular this fall and winter. I bet you will too.
Cacio e Pepe Toasted Gnocchi with Pancetta and Arugula
Serves 2-4 (depending on how much Gnocchi you can handle!)
4 oz pancetta (ask for a 1/2 inch slab from the deli counter) cut into 1/4 inch pieces
16 oz gnocchi (premade or homemade, both work perfectly!)
4 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
1 tsp freshly cracked pepper
2 Tbsp heavy cream
3 cups (or just 3 handfuls) baby arugula
*note: This recipe doesn’t have many ingredients so you want to make sure you get the good stuff here. Pecorino Romano and FRESHLY cracked pepper are key. Don’t skimp out!
Heat 2 quarts of water and a good pinch of salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Place diced pancetta in 12 inch nonstick skillet set over medium low heat. Allow to slowly render until brown and crisy (and slightly chewy!). Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Turn off the heat, keep pancetta fat in the pan.
While pancetta is cooking, cut cheese into 1 inch pieces, and pulse in a food processor until finely ground (this is a much faster way than using a microplane grater, but you could also do that if you didn’t want to get out the food processor!). Add to medium bowl and set aside.
When the water comes to a boil, add the gnocchi and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes until they start popping up to the surface. You’ll want these to be ever so slightly al dente. Carefully remove 1/2 C of pasta water from the pot and set aside. Drain the gnocchi into a strainer and discard the rest of the pasta water.
Turn the nonstick skillet with the pancetta fat back onto medium heat until shimmering. Add the strained gnocchi (watch out, it might spit!) to the fat, and toss in the pan to coat. Cook in the fat until the gnocchi start to become golden brown and they become ever so slightly crispy on the outside.
Meanwhile, while the gnocchi is toasting, carefully whisk the hot pasta water into the grated cheese until smooth. Add heavy cream and black pepper.
Once the gnocchi are looking delicious– add the arugula and pancetta back to the pan to allow the pancetta to reheat and the arugula to wilt. Carefully add the cheese sauce to the pan, and allow to warm through, melting the cheese (if it wasn’t already almost there from the hot pasta water) and coating the gnocchi.
Serve immediately topping with more freshly cracked pepper and grated pecorino, if desired.