Quick, easy one-pot pasta dinner. (December 2023)

Quick, easy one-pot pasta dinner. (December 2023) Credit: Marge Perry

As much as we are all planning our elaborate holiday feasts, we have to eat in between, too. At this time of year, I need a weeknight meal that is a real crowd-pleaser and exceptionally easy to throw together. Bonus points if it is a dish I’d happily share with guests, like this version of cacio e pepe.

Purists might argue that this is not the classic way to make the beloved Italian dish, and I agree. But I’ve added vegetables and a little protein to make it a complete meal. I do it all in one deep skillet to minimize cleanup.

In this version, I’ve added asparagus and edamame, but you could easily replace both: broccoli is a great stand-in for the asparagus, and sweet peas or chickpeas for the edamame.

One important note: Don’t use ground black pepper from a spice jar. Freshly ground black pepper will have more robust flavor and adds a little texture. (Also, 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper from the jar yields far more pepper than 1 teaspoon of chunky freshly ground, and would overwhelm the dish.)

Cacio e Pepe

12 ounces spaghetti

6 1/2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup frozen shelled edamame

8 ounces asparagus, trimmed and cut in 1 1/2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1 teaspoon coarse freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine the spaghetti, water and salt in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring often after the water comes to a boil, for 11 minutes. Stir in the edamame, return to a boil and continue stirring for another 3 minutes. Add the asparagus and cook until it is bright green and crisp-tender, the pasta is al dente and there is just a little starchy liquid left in the pan.

2. Remove the skillet from the heat and swirl in the oil and butter until it is melted. Add the cheese and pepper and mix until well distributed.

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