lemony arugula cacio e pepe
Aaaand I'm back! Coming to you from our new digs that are almost fully assembled. Aside from a bookshelf that needs wall-mounting and the chaise portion of our sectional that is being delivered separately of the main piece (I know, I'm confused too) we have officially ~moved~ in the past tense. Perhaps it was the tight quarters or cave-like lighting of our last place that really drove home the point of just how much a home boasting a square footage > 500 and a couple hours of daily natural light could mean to us, but over a week in we are still swooning hard over this apartment. There’s so just much to love! I can stretch all 5 feet 10 inches of my person out on our new couch even without the chaise (!), the cats have a new afternoon sunbathing routine in the bay window, and Cos gets to play around on his guitar whenever he feels like it to exactly no one’s chagrin, because: there's plenty of room here! Even the neighborhood itself has been charming our pants off, with these pretty ladies, a poppin music venue, and two southern food favorites all just a short walk away.
The move itself was shockingly breezy too. Sure we've spent a fair amount of time grouchily lamenting the amount of shit two people acquire in a years time, swearing up and down to never ever move again (for real this time!), but all things considered it was the easiest move yet. For that, I credit three things: first, this Gamay that my local bourgie grocery is currently stocking (but who knows how long that will last since I buy a bottle every time I stop by, bless you Gamay); second, my best babycakes and newly-minted 'round the corner neighbor (!!!), Martin, whose muscly manpower and mood-tempering smooth talk facilitated the moving of all of our furniture on what had to be the most laborious Labor Day of my life so far; and last but absolutely not least, Chrissy Teigen’s Lemony Arugula Cacio e Pepe.
I originally made this pasta as a surprise for Cos earlier this summer as a little thank you for his being a good sport as my captive taste tester, even when it wasn’t his favorite thing. I figured it would be something of a concession on my part since I much prefer soba or rice noodles over semolina ones, and c’mon! nothing good could possibly come of messing with a Titan of classic pastas. Or so I thought. But nope, I was wrong. And if loving this pasta is wrong I don't want to be right.
There are undoubtedly some instances where being a food snob works in your favor (fancy tuna vs. the canned stuff, for instance), but this is not one of them. The few flourishes this version adds elevate this already special dish to a whole new level of greatness. The arugula adds a peppery crunch (and with a whole clamshell’s worth thrown in there, makes it acceptable to eat a bowl of pasta for dinner without a vegetable on the side, especially if you're moving). The lemon adds a splash of brightness to compliment the rich and salty cheese, and the bacon? Well it does exactly what it always does - make everything better. We've eaten this pasta happily for nearly as many days as we've spent packing and schlepping, and we aren't even close to being tired of it. Not to mention, it's tough to argue over who’s going to bring the last load of clothes up from the car when you're busy cramming a fork twirl of bacony, cheesy pasta into your mouth.
Lemony Arugula Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe, adapted from Chrissy Teigen's Cravings
12 ounces dried spaghetti
4 pieces thick cut bacon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus more for serving
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 2 lemons, plus more for serving
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Grana Padano), plus more for serving
1 clamshell or bag (about 5 ounces) of baby arugula
Set a large pot of well salted water on the stove to boil. Once boiling, cook the spaghetti to al dente according to the directions on the package (roughly 8 minutes for us). Reserve a large coffee cup's worth of the pasta water, then drain the pasta.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, fry the bacon over medium high heat until it is crisped to your liking (we like it crispy crumbly for a dish like this). Remove the cooked bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Drain about half of the bacon fat off so that there is just enough to keep the pan slick. Add the olive oil, lemon zest, garlic red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes, until the garlic is just starting to turn golden and fragrant.
Turn the heat down to low. Squeeze the lemon juice into the skillet and give everything a quick stir. Then add the pasta and toss-toss-toss until the pasta is well coated with the juices. Sprinkle the parmesan on top of the pasta along with a little splash of the reserved pasta water, then continue to toss, folding the pasta in towards the center to mix it into the parmesan without allowing the parmesan to hit the pan and stick. Add the arugula to the pan, a couple of handfuls at a time, allowing each batch to wilt before adding the next, splashing in a little pasta water when needed (you only want to use enough to help the dish gel together). Crumble the bacon over the top and give everything one final toss. Season to taste with additional salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Divvy the pasta out into your serving bowls. Top with more grated parm and an extra squeeze of lemon if you like. Twirl a forkful and devour.