I don’t even know why I kept the title of this recipe being ‘cacio e pepe’, which is supposed to be pasta with freshly ground pepper and parmesan. When I first made this dish, I pretty much intended to make exactly that. Keep it simple and stripped down! I am sure it’s delicious, but something inside of me just wasn’t in the mood to eat a dish of only pasta and cheese. I figured I would throw in a few handfuls of baby Kale, some pine nuts for crunch and a few chilli flakes for some heat. In the end, it was delicious. The kale certainly didn’t make the dish feel any healthier but I always like the taste and a bit of variation in texture in the bowl. Either way, whatever you choose to call it, this pasta is a ridiculously easy, unbelievably tasty dish.
The trick, as with any other pasta that doesn’t really have a ‘sauce’ is to reserve some pasta water, undercook the pasta by at least two minutes and cook the rest of the pasta with the kale, butter, reserved water and any seasoning in a pan. That way the pasta soaks up all of the delicious flavour, the pasta isn’t greasy or covered with a buttery coating because the starchy, reserved water combined with everything else creates more of a sauce for the pasta. I always find simple pasta like this to be surprisingly full of flavour.
Start a big pot of salted water to cook pasta. When it starts to boil, add pasta.
In the meantime, in a large pan heat up the olive oil and add the greens.
Add garlic and chilli flakes and cook until greens are wilted and garlic is starting to turn brown.
Once pasta is about two minutes undercooked, add to pan with the reserved pasta water, freshly ground pepper, salt, and butter.
Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until there is no extra water in the pan and the pasta is cooked through.
Stir in pine nuts and parmesan and serve!