Man, does it feel like this January has been trying, even if the Baltimore area is on-track to have the least-snowiest winter on record and we had one day that was skirting close to 70 degrees. Most of this malaise is due to the enormity of what’s going on in our country and around the world, but a small amount of this malaise is also due to the news that dropped on the 13th that American Apparel was sold and will be closing up its retail operation in the next 100-ish days. There’s a store down the street from where we live, so I have been making a few visits to do what Michael calls a “final buy” of the running shorts that have been my preferred pajama bottoms for the last ten (?) years along with ordering a few pairs of yoga pants. As he likes to joke, I’ll probably be wearing these damn things for decades to come. (Hey, that’s one reason why I lift!)
In better news, I’ve started to pull together a Google Sheets document to track congressional bills that have been introduced that I’m particularly worried about so I have specifics to give the office of my congressman when I make my calls.* I was also pretty happy to see that so much of my social media feed on Saturday was filled with photos from my friends at protests all over the country, and that I was able to go to the Baltimore vigil since getting to DC was nigh upon impossible due to the mass transit system to the capital being completely overwhelmed with so many more people riding than anticipated.
In the midst of all of this, I’ve been cooking quite a bit. My Monday off was spent primarily in the kitchen so I could take advantage of the natural light and actually get some decent photos for upcoming blog posts, while also doing such useful things as prepping for lunch and dinner later in the week. Despite being on my feet for most of the afternoon I found it to be highly relaxing, probably because I felt so damn productive after hemming and hawing over what to make for lunch earlier in the morning.
Ultimately, I went with pasta. I hadn’t had any since the holidays so I definitely felt the craving, and I found a recipe I had earmarked ages ago but never made from Franny’s that combined pancetta, ricotta, and pecorino with pasta. It was their take on pasta alla gricia, and while not authentically Roman, it was just what I needed that day to fuel all that kitchen work. (It also proved helpful on Friday as comfort food was very necessary during lunch.) The dollop of ricotta gives the pasta just a little extra oomph and creaminess, and makes it a little easier to store and save for another day versus the traditional recipe. I’m definitely going to make this again during one of Michael’s upcoming work trips, and I think you should make it sooner than that if you’re in the mood for some starchy carbs and cheese post-haste.
Casarecce with Pancetta, Chile, and Ricotta
Lightly adapted from Franny’s
- 1/2 lb pancetta, cubed or even sliced into batons
- 1 chile de arbol, crushed
- 1 lb casarecce
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons finely grated Pecorino Romano, plus extra if desired
- 1/2 cup ricotta
Bring a large pot of water to boil. While it’s going, in a large skillet over medium-high heat add the pancetta and let cook until the pancetta is crispy, about five to eight minutes. Add the crushed red pepper and cook for 30 seconds over medium heat, and then add two tablespoons of water before taking the pan off the heat.
When the water is boiling add salt, and then cook the pasta for about two minutes less than the package indicates. Using a mug grab some of the starchy cooking water to hold aside, as you may need this to help bring everything together in the skillet. Drain the pasta well, and then add to the skillet and place it on medium-low heat with the butter and a tablespoon of the Pecorino. Stirl well for about 30 seconds, and then add the ricotta and the rest of the Pecorino and stir until the cheese has coated the pasta into a creamy sauce for about 1-2 minutes. Add starchy water if necessary to help with this process.
Serve immediately with extra cheese on the side.
*If you have any interest in following this and/or contributing to it (which would be fantastic), shoot me an email and I can share it with you. I want to keep the good momentum from the weekend going, and I know it’s going to require a team effort to make a difference.