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Cacio de Pepe – Spinach

As a throwback nod to my original meal, I present homemade Spinach Caio de Pepe. Throwback because nothing beats fresh, homemade pasta!

Servings

4

Ready In:

2hrs 45min

Good For:

Dinner

Inroduction

About this Recipe

By: Monica

Nothing beats fresh, homemade pasta and this gets an extra nod because this is cheesy deliciousness without all the heaviness of butter and cream. This literally has THREE ingredients and while you can certainly use store-bought dry pasta: traditionally tonarelli, I’m including my pasta spinach dough as well.

Ingredients

  • 12 oz Spinach Pasta** 
  • 8 oz Pecorino Romano
  • Oodles of black pepper
  • HOT pasta water
The main complaint I’ve seen about this luscious pasta dish is the inability to get the cheese and hot pasta water to develop in to a smooth & silky sauce. The issue is that we’ve all encountered with oil(y) (cheese) and water (liquid) is that it doesn’t simply mix without getting gunky and gloppy, clumping together and gumming up your tongs rather than coating your noodles with unctuous creaminess. It’s the stuff that makes people say…never again. 
Here’s the secret: COLD water. Yes, we will still use Hot pasta water for the final product, but first we will create an emulsion by pulsing the cheese to super fine crumbles before blending it with the cold water into a paste. While you can absolutely continue this in your food processor, I prefer my immersion blender. I just feel like I have more hands on control (it could also just be my inner type A).

Step by Step Instructions

Step 1
Bring a pot of well salted (should taste like sea water) to a boil. While the water is coming to a boil, mix the finely grated Pecorino in a bowl with the black pepper. In one tablespoon increments add the cold water immersion blending after each addition until the consistency of thick ricotta. When you think it’s blended enough, blend some more! You want this as smooth as absolutely possible! Set aside.
Step 2

Add pasta to water and cook to a minute shy of the estimated cook time. Taste. Cook in additional minute increments until desired texture. Remember the only additional heat will come from the hot pasta water so there will be no more cooking for only ‘almost done’. 

Step 3
Remove a cup of hot pasta water before draining. Drain pasta  (it doesn’t need to be dry as we are adding pasta water back to make our sauce) and immediately drop it into a large bowl. Top with  about 2/3 of the cheese quickly tossing to combine. (Let’s get REAL…you’re TOTALLY going to use all of the cheese because…duh, it’s cheese!)
Step 4

As the Pecorino paste begins to coat the noodles, add one ladle at a time of hot pasta water to loosen the cheese in to a creamier consistency. Add in any remaining cheese mixture continuing to vigorously stir, toss, stir. Top with additional grated Pecorino and of course more pepper if you don’t have Little palates dining with you. Serve immediately. 

**The Spinach Pasta

  • 12 oz baby spinach 338g, or frozen spinach, thawed and drained 
  • 3 large eggs
  • egg yolk
  • 2 tsp salt
  • tbsp olive oil
  • cup ’00’ flour 260g
  • 1.5 cup semolina flour 254g, or additional ’00’ flour
The main complaint I’ve seen about this luscious pasta dish is the inability to get the cheese and hot pasta water to develop in to a smooth & silky sauce. The issue is that we’ve all encountered with oil(y) (cheese) and water (liquid) is that it doesn’t simply mix without getting gunky and gloppy, clumping together and gumming up your tongs rather than coating your noodles with unctuous creaminess. It’s the stuff that makes people say…never again. 
Here’s the secret: COLD water. Yes, we will still use Hot pasta water for the final product, but first we will create an emulsion by pulsing the cheese to super fine crumbles before blending it with the cold water into a paste. While you can absolutely continue this in your food processor, I prefer my immersion blender. I just feel like I have more hands on control (it could also just be my inner type A).

Step by Step Instructions

Step 1

Place baby spinach in a large bowl and pour boiling water over until all is submerged. I use a salad plate to hold the spinach under the water. pushing leaves down as needed. Leave for a few minutes to soften/wilt then allow to drain as it cools.

Once the spinach is cool, squeeze well getting out as much moisture as possible. Roughly chop if larger leaf, Add to food processor with the eggs, egg yolk and salt and pulse until well chopped and mixed, scraping down as needed.

Step 2

I like kneading dough…so from here my photos will reflect the “well” method for working the dough by hand. When I don’t do that, my next preferred method would be kneading with my Kitchen Aid mixer since 1) I have to pull the pasta rollers out anyway and 2) it does ALL the kneading for you! No matter your level of comfort…we’ve got you covered!

Step 3

Kitchen Aid: Pour egg/spinach mixture into your mixing bowl. Add the flours about 1/2 cup at a time and knead with dough hook after each addition. Add the olive oil about halfway through incorporating your flour mixture. Knead until the dough pulls away from the sides, coming together, into a ball.

 By Hand: Mix Flours & Salt and pour onto your counter or kneading surface. Create a well and pour in the olive oil and spinach egg mixture. Gently work the dough to bring it all together into an elastic ball. I judge mostly by feel but 12-15 minutes depending on humidity? 

Step 4

Place the dough to a floured surface, it should be soft but not sticky – if it is, add a little more all-purpose/plain flour as you knead.

Divide in half. Wrap in plastic/cling film and allow to rest at room temperature for approx 30min. At this stage, you can keep the dough in the fridge for a day or two until ready to use.

When ready, divide the dough into 4-6 sections and cover the pieces you aren’t working with with a damp cloth to save them drying out. Prepare some sheet pans by dusting them with semolina flour.

Step 5

As you work with each piece, flatten it out slightly, dust with flour then following manufacturer’s instruction, put it through your pasta roller on the widest settings a few times until smooth, dusting with flour in between if at all sticky. Then move up the settings rolling once or twice at each setting until you get to the thickness you would like. Then either use the cutter attachment or hand-cut and place the ribbons onto the prepared trays in a single layer and cover with a DAMP (not wet) cloth. 

Step 6

Once all of the dough has been cut and ready to cook, place handfuls at a time in boiling “sea” water for 2-3 minutes until al dente.

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