I like to think of myself as a smart person, but I guess we all make bonehead errors from time to time.
Yesterday despite a heat advisory, I went for a run.
We were well into the red zone where heat exhaustion and heat stroke could occur.
You know, one of those summer days when the thermometer reads 92º, but it feels like standing in the pits of hell — thanks a lot humidity!
The news advised people to stay indoors and avoid strenuous activities, warning that “if you have to be outside, be sure to schedule frequent rest breaks in an air conditioned or shaded place!”
But since I wouldn't skip my daily run, just like I wouldn't skip brushing my teeth, I ignored all the warnings and hit the pavement.
I took some precautions such as running my hair under the water to allow for some initial cooling and carrying a water bottle. I also decided to run just 10k and at a slower pace than usual.
Still, I can’t remember the last time I sweated so much while running. By the end I had sweated through every single stitch of my t-shirt and running shorts.
Even my shoes were soaked from the sweat running down my legs. They squished with every step.
It felt like I had jumped in a pool with my clothes on. A pool filled my own sweat.
I’m not complaining about it though: I’d made my own
Anyways, I got home, stretched for a while, showered, and then...a huge craving for PASTA, and CHEESE. Mac & Cheese if you catch my drift.
Do you ever just want Mac & Cheese? I typically don’t. But during heatwaves bizarre things happen. Like craving warm comfort food instead of salads and smoothies.
But instead of Mac & Cheese, I made myself some Pasta Cacio e Pepe, which is like a stripped-down Mac & Cheese.
Cacio e Pepe — literally “cheese and pepper” — is a pantry meal at its finest. So fundamentally simple and unfussy, yet so delicious.
In the traditional Roman way, the Cacio cheese is used. But Pecorino Romano, Parmesan, and/or Grana Padano will do — or even a combination of them.
Other than the cheese, all you need is copious amounts of black pepper, a bit of olive oil, and spaghetti — or in my case zoodles.
The beauty of Cacio e Pepe is its simplicity and the flavor that comes from it.
It is among the most basic, simplest pastas there is, but when Cacio e Pepe is made right, it’s incredible. Even more so when it's made with healthy, gluten-free, crunchy, and delicious zoodles. Trust.
A couple of notes. It’s almost impossible to make a bad Cacio e Pepe, however one thing that happens frequently is the cheese clumping together and hardening into strings.
Usually that occurs because the water used to make the cream is too hot.
In addition, you really do need to beat and toss the cheese and water together vigorously for quite some time.
I like to use a combination of Grana/Parmesan and Pecorino - I've found using only Pecorino a tad overwhelming. I let you be the judge of that.
¾ cup finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese
⅓ cup finely grated Pecorino
1 tablespoon ground black pepper, plus more for finishing the dish
2 tablespoons olive oil
Using a spiralizer create zucchini noodles (always read the directions for your spiral slicer as they vary by brand - I use this spiralizer.) If you don't have a spiralizer use a regular vegetable peeler to vertically peel long, thin strips of the zucchini. This will form more of a wider "noodle" from the zucchini, like fettuccini.
Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add zucchini noodles and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, until zucchini noodles are tender but still retain some crunch.
Let the noodles rest for about 3 minutes so that they can release all of the moisture. Transfer noodles to a bowl and reserve the excess water in a small bowl.
In another large bowl combine the cheeses and black pepper; add just enough zoodle water to make a thick paste.
Add zoodles, and stir vigorously to coat them with the cheese-pepper sauce, adding some olive oil and a bit of zoodles water to thin the sauce if necessary.
The sauce should cling to the zoodles and be creamy but not watery.
If the zoodles are not hot enough, heat them in the pan for a couple of minutes before serving.
Sprinkle with additional grated cheese and pepper and serve immediately.
One serving yields 247 calories, 17 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbs, and 9 grams of protein.