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Cacio E Pepe Pasta

This Roman ‘mac and cheese’ couldn’t be easier to prepare, or more delicious.

By Mindy Fox  

Put pasta together with cheese and black pepper and what do you get? A cheesy, creamy, peppery trifecta that’s made with readily available ingredients you likely have in your pantry right now. Next time someone asks you, What is cacio e pepe? you’ll have an answer ready (and maybe dinner, too).

Cacio e pepe, which translates to “cheese and pepper,” is a classic Roman pasta dish that takes its name from two of its key ingredients: Pecorino cheese, which in Roman dialect is known as cacio, and black pepper. The sauce, which is made in a skillet, comes together in less time then it takes to boil your pasta. Like many of the best things in life, it’s incredibly simple. Still, there are a few things to know when it comes to nailing the technique.

Choose a long pasta: Though cacio e pepe can be made with any pasta shape, the best variety for the dish is a long pasta that will twirl through and catch onto the lusciously creamy sauce. Spaghetti, bucatini (a thick spaghetti with a hole through the center), and egg tagliolini are all great choices.

Make this dish for two eaters (or slightly modify your technique for four):Since you’ll be finishing cacio e pepe in the skillet you make your sauce in, it’s best to cook no more than 2 servings at a time so that the pasta has ample space to meld with the sauce in the pan. You want to be able to quickly and gracefully toss the sauce and pasta together, which is easiest with 2 servings max. If you’re cooking for 4 eaters, cook all of your pasta in one large pot, but use two skillets to make the sauce and finish the dish.

Season your pasta water: Properly seasoned pasta water is water that is seasoned with enough salt so that it tastes, well, salty. Salty pasta water both seasons your pasta as it cooks and, in the case of a dish like cacio e pepe, also helps season the dish as a whole, as some of the pasta cooking water is used to make the sauce. Use about 1½ teaspoons of kosher salt per every quart of water that you use to cook your pasta. So for 4 quarts of water, you’ll use 2 tablespoons of salt.

Cook your pasta al dente: Al dente means “to the tooth,” and refers to pasta that’s cooked to a pleasant firmness, which some might consider slightly undercooked but which gives all pasta dishes a terrific texture. Since the pasta for cacio e pepe continues cooking in the skillet with the sauce after it’s drained, you’ll want to make sure you don’t overcook it during the boiling process. Taste a strand or two of pasta as the lower end of the cooking time stated on the box draws near. When the pasta tastes 1 to 2 minutes away from a perfect al dente, that’s when it’s ready to drain for this dish.

Reserve some pasta cooking water: Pasta cooking water is a critical sauce ingredient for cacio e pepe and many other pasta dishes. Not only does it add a nice seasoned, salty taste, the water also picks up starch from the pasta as it cooks, which gives the sauce body and helps it emulsify, or blend, with the rest of the ingredients. Before you drain your pasta, reserve some pasta cooking water in a measuring cup or bowl.

While the pasta is cooking, start making your sauce. The key for this dish is to have the pasta and sauce ready at about the same time, so that everything is nice and hot and your pasta stays al dente and doesn’t overcook. This takes a little practice, but it’s not hard to nail. Keep reading; we’ll guide you through the recipe. Before you know it, you’ll have it down like a pro.

Use coarsely and freshly ground black pepper. Though you can use pre-ground pepper for cacio e pepe, if you do you’ll miss out on the punch of flavor that’s a huge part of what makes the dish so great. When you grind your own black peppercorns, as you need them, you get the fullest expression of the spice: a sharp, peppery bite along with complex floral notes. Use a hand grinder or spice grinder, and grind just what you need for the dish.

Toast the spice in a dry pan. While this is not a necessary step in the cacio e pepe process, it’s a cool chef-y trick that helps elevate the flavor of the dish. Lightly toasting your pepper as a first step warms the natural oil in the spice, which heightens its peppery bite and brightens its natural floral notes.

Recipe: Cacio e Pepe for Two

  1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add 6 ounces of pasta.
  2. When the pasta is a few minutes from al dente, place 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper in a dry skillet and gently toast over medium-low heat, swirling the pan to keep the spice moving (to keep it from burning). Toast the pepper until it’s fragrant and warm, about 1 minute.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of cold cubed unsalted butter to the skillet. Increase the heat to medium and, gently swirling the pan over the heat, cook until the butter is melted.
  4. At this point, your pasta should be ready to drain, but before you drain it, reserve ¾ cup of pasta cooking water. (If you need a minute or two to continue cooking your pasta at this point, remove your butter mixture from the heat but be sure to warm it up again for a minute or so before you continue with the next step.)
  5. Add ½ cup pasta cooking water to the butter mixture, along with your drained pasta, and another tablespoon of cold cubed butter to the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low/low and add ¾ cup of finely grated Parmigiano or Grana Padano cheese, stirring constantly with tongs until the cheese is melted. Remove the pan from the heat and add ⅓ cup of finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, stirring and tossing until the cheese is melted and the sauce is creamy. Add more pasta cooking water if the sauce seems dry.
  6. Transfer the pasta to warm bowls and serve immediately, topping with more cheese and freshly ground black pepper, if desired.

Google Doodle Celebrates Mathematician Olga Ladyzhenskaya

Google celebrated Russian mathematician Olga Ladyzhenskaya on Thursday March 7, 2019 with a Google Doodle. It would have been her 97th birthday
math.ru/Creative Commons

Russian mathematician Olga Ladyzhenskaya overcame personal and political hurdles and had a lasting impact on a range of scientific fields, from weather forecasting to cardiovascular science and oceanography.

On Thursday Google celebrated her life and achievements with a Google Doodle on what would have been her 97th birthday.

Ladyzhenskaya was best known for her studies on partial differential equations. Marshall Slemrod, a mathematician with the University of Wisconsin, told the New York Times, “If you believe your weather forecasts, you have to solve the exact equations that she studied.”

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Google called her “one of the most influential thinkers of her generation.”

Born in the rural town of Kologriv, more than 400 miles from Moscow, Ladyzhenskaya inherited a love for algebra from her father, a mathematician who came from Russian nobility. When she was 15, personal tragedy struck as her father was executed by the Soviet authorities, who called him an “enemy of the state.” Her mother and sister sold dresses, shoes and soap to put food on the table.

This is the Google Doodle for Olga Ladyzhenskaya. Her work had a lasting impact on a range of scientific fields, from weather forecasting to cardiovascular science and oceanography.

This is the Google Doodle for Olga Ladyzhenskaya. Her work had a lasting impact on a range of scientific fields, from weather forecasting to cardiovascular science and oceanography.
Google

Despite earning a place at Leningrad State University with her impressive school grades, Ladyzhenskaya was banned from attending because of her father’s “enemy” status.

After years of teaching math in an orphanage and high schools, she was eventually given spot at Moscow State University in 1943, where she earned her Ph.D. Ladyzhenskaya later went onto head the Laboratory of Mathematical Physics at the Steklov Mathematical Institute, and to author more than 250 papers. In 1990, she became the head of the St. Petersburg Mathematical Society, after being a member for 39 years.

In recognition of her impressive contribution to mathematics, Ladyzhenskaya was awarded the Lomonosov Gold Medal by the Russian Academy of Sciences in 2002.

Much like her dissident father, she did not shy away from publicly criticizing the oppressive Soviet regime, often risking her safety. With her love for literature, Ladyzhenskaya befriended outspoken political critics Alexander Solzhenytsin and Anna Akhmatova.

Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and economic woes that followed, Ladyzhenskaya elected to stay in her motherland. She died on Jan. 12, 2004 in St. Petersburg at the age of 81.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

Karl Lagerfeld’s Diet

REMEMBERING KARL

I Tried Karl Lagerfeld’s Diet

 

After Karl Lagerfeld’s death on February 19this essay is excerpted from Rebecca Harrington’s book I’ll Have What She’s Having: My Adventures in Celebrity Dieting, published by Vintage in 2015.

Most people think of Karl Lagerfeld, the head designer for Chanel, as a whippet-thin man with a shock of white hair. This wasn’t always so. Though he has always had white hair (Karl loves the eighteenth century because everyone had white hair then), nineties Karl was far plumper and wore diaphanous jackets with a huge wooden fan around his neck. He looked rather jolly actually, or would have if the fan was not there.

With the new millennium on the horizon, however, Karl decided to lose a bunch of weight. He claims it was entirely for “superficial reasons.” Apparently Karl was seized with the desire to “dress differently [and] to wear clothes designed by [Dior Homme’s] Hedi Slimane.” However, he also realized that “these fashions… would require [him] to lose 80 pounds.” After devoting himself to a strict diet designed by weight-loss guru Dr. Jean-Claude Houdret, he lost all the weight within the year. This dramatic weight loss was so remarked upon in the fashion community that Lagerfeld wrote a book about it, entitled The Karl Lagerfeld Diet. It was a bestseller in France because how could it not be?

Karl Lagerfeld has a cat named Choupette that I have always liked (she knows how to use an iPad and she has two lady’s maids, one for day and one for night), so I wanted to attempt the Karl Lagerfeld diet as a way of congratulating her. Also, anything that involves losing eighty pounds in a year must be effective, at the very least.

Preparation

I purchase Karl’s book and lug it home from the bookstore. The cover shows Karl in bootcut jeans he would probably glower at now, looking fiercely at the corner of the book jacket. He seems both mad and ready to diet, as am I.

After a particularly long period of contemplating the book’s cover, much the way a five-year-old Karl obsessively contemplated a painting of white-haired eighteenth-century aristocrats in his family’s home, I open the book. Inside there is a large picture of Lagerfeld’s diet doctor, Dr. Jean-Claude Houdret, who has a long Salvador Dalí-style mustache with curled ends. Dr. Houdret is the creator of the Spoonlight program — a French diet that advocates a mix of very expensive protein packets and meager bits of food. He actually wrote most of Karl’s diet book, it turns out. The book is written in a very high-literary style for a diet book, I must say. The conclusion is a meandering essay on the way a dandy functions in modern society. One would think the good doctor would know something about that because of his mustache.

Which is not to say that Karl had no hand in writing the book that bears his name; he did. Karl’s passages turn up occasionally, helpfully signed with his initials, KL. Karl is also interviewed at the beginning of the book by Ingrid Sischy, where he explains the genesis of his diet, and how he can’t even remember the man he was two years ago when he was fat, and that he’s so disciplined he’s not even tempted by any foods. Aside from the interview (which is very long and slightly repetitive), there are several essays on cosmetic surgery and skin care and personal anecdotes of a young and inexperienced medical professional by Dr. Salvador Dalí. Eventually, I find a brief description of the actual diet tucked in the middle of the book. There are several different diets the doctor prescribes — including a nine-hundred-calorie one that consists entirely of protein “sachets” and vegetables for the very severe weight-loss cases. I decide to pass on this as I have put myself through enough in the years I have lived. The middle version of the diet is Karl’s preferred diet anyway, an amalgam of lean proteins, vegetables, and more “protein sachets” clocking in at a whopping twelve hundred calories in a day. There are recipes in the back too, which all look very arcane and French.

Day 1

Karl says that when you are on a diet, “You are a general and you have a single soldier in your army. You must give him instructions and he must carry them out. It may annoy him but he has no choice.” And thus I start the day with what Karl calls his “winter breakfast”: a piece of toast, an egg (not fried in any oil, because that would be too appetizing), some juice, yogurt, and a Diet Coke. It is the spartan meal of a prisoner but it does the job.

After this, I decide to call my mother. I freely admit my mother is less fun than Karl Lagerfeld’s mother. To wit — Karl Lagerfeld’s mother told Karl he had “exceptionally ugly” hands and that he should never smoke. She also told him that his stories were “so boring” because he was six and that even though he was almost blind “children with glasses are the ugliest thing in the world,” so she never bought him glasses. She was a great influence on Lagerfeld’s life.

After my call, I set about guzzling Diet Cokes. Lagerfeld drinks up to ten Diet Cokes a day, so I have to really set my mind to this task. After three in quick succession I get very jittery; after four I decide I’m so jittery I can’t eat lunch (protein sachet) or write or concentrate and just start pacing my room, which seems, all of a sudden, like a necessary activity. After my last Diet Coke, I give up and I go and watch the finale of The Bachelor. I rationalize this brainless but emotional activity because Karl is a rabid consumer of culture and has three hundred iPods. I have salmon with brussel sprouts for dinner and I am so utterly starving afterward, although I feel so jittery. After the show finishes, I end up staying up until 7:00 a.m. reading about what Choupette does on the iPad. (She’s a cat, so nothing.)

Day 2

Today I get up rather later than usual. I oversleep because I was reading so late, which Karl would never do. Karl sleeps exactly seven hours a night no matter what time he goes to bed. However, Karl also reads under a canopy in a room overlooking the Louvre and wears a white night shirt based on seventeenth-century design he saw in the Victoria and Albert Museum. In penance, I decide to punish myself with Karl’s “summer breakfast,” which is even more barren than the “winter breakfast.” (What is the point of seasonal menus for breakfast and breakfast only? I don’t know.) It’s just the fruit and yogurt, basically. It is very hard not to have a second piece of toast, but Karl says, “The height of luxury is for me to have an extra slice of toast. It’s the most delicious thing in the world.” And now I agree with him.

For dinner, I make one of the dishes in the back of his diet book, “Veal with Plums,” but there are no plums at the grocery store, so I make it with prunes. This is less food. I am starving for extra calories, so I have a glass of red wine. Dr. Dalí recommends two of those a day. A young doctor’s notebook!

Day 3

Karl Lagerfeld does not usually like to entertain (“Loneliness is a luxury for people like me,” he has said), but he does have a recipe for quail flambé, which I have never had before. And can a woman just eat quail by herself? Apparently yes, because although I buy two quails (for $17; Karl is another one with an insane food budget), no one wants to eat them even though I ask in a plaintive voice. I have finally pushed my friends to the limit of their endurance, and quail is the last straw. It seems fitting. Karl says, “You have to be a real bore like me for the diet to work. When you are that boring, you have to make twice the effort in wit and conversation in order to compensate.” But I really don’t have the strength for that type of display this evening anyway.

If I am going to have quail flambé solo, the rest of the meal has to be, in some essential way, equally grandiose. This is what it means to be a dandy in modern society. I decide to make myself a traditional French multicourse meal using recipes from the Lagerfeld diet book. The first course is French onion soup. The onions are cooked with no butter whatsoever (usually, according to other recipes I have seen, the onions are cooked in an entire stick of butter); however, you are allowed to have a little Gruyère and croutons. Butter’s absence makes the soup seem oddly flavorless, like onion soup I have had in a cafeteria. Still, it is not entirely off from the real thing.

Quail, however, is horrible. If you have never seen quail before (I hadn’t), they are emaciated birds with dinosaur claws. If someone had ever grasped a quail in front of me and yelled, “This quail is rabid!” I would’ve believed them. I marinate the quail in wine for several hours. After a while, I take the quail out of the wine and then douse it in Grand Marnier and then set it on fire (flambé it). I don’t have a match, so I light a paper towel on fire with the stove burner and then throw it on the quail. This works surprisingly well. The quail comes out tasting mostly of wine and burnt power towel, but also of tiny shards of quail meat. The thing about quail is that it has absolutely no meat on it. It’s only talons; that’s it. I practically attack it with my teeth and I barely make a dent. I even have protein powder for dessert, I’m so hungry.

Day 4

I’m off the diet! I lost a couple of pounds and have managed to develop a sense of humor over the quail incident even though it was not funny at all at the time. As Karl says, “To follow a diet like this you have to have a sense of humor. Don’t take things too seriously, make fun of yourself, admit why you’re doing it. It’s a physical thing, that’s all. There’s no point in pretending it’s anything else.”

And that really is the gift of Karl. So many celebrities try to pretend that they are dieting because of nutrition when actually they are dieting because they want to fit into a certain shape of clothing. Karl does not stand for such hypocrisy and even eats quail while he does it. And Choupette eats at the table with him (her own food, not quail).

I’ll Have What She’s Having: My Adventures in Celebrity Dieting by Rebecca Harrington

I’ll Have What She’s Having: My Adventures in Celebrity Dieting by Rebecca Harrington
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