As a Single Lady in My 30s, a Bowl of Cacio e Pepe Is How I Take Care of Myself

Pasta is my love language. Rigatoni, macaroni, spaghetti — whether or not twirled in Bolognese, combined in marinara, or baked with mounds of melted mozzarella — consuming a bowl of pasta is one of the methods I take care of myself and the individuals I love.     

In my 20s, I hosted the occasional banquet for roommates and pals every time I felt the urge to flex my burgeoning domesticity and had an additional hundred {dollars} in the financial institution from working extra time. Lasagna was typically on the menu. In faculty, I made my mom’s ricotta-loaded lasagna recipe, and solely realized that I had forgotten so as to add seasonings when I seen my roommate grabbing the salt shaker in between bites. A number of years later, and with extra confidence than anybody ought to have in a kitchen full of uninteresting knives, I made a bechamel-and-Bolognese quantity that took hours to make, and pushed dinner previous 10 p.m. … on a Sunday. 

But till dinner events are secure to host once more, I’ll proceed to make my favourite pasta-for-one dish: cacio e pepe. It’s a meal I don’t need to share. 

Unlike the lasagna and different laborious meals I’ve ready to impress pals and love pursuits over the course of a decade, cacio e pepe requires none of the pomp and circumstance. It’s a humble Italian dish, consisting of few substances — historically pasta, cheese, and pepper — and takes lower than 20 minutes to make. cacio e pepe is nutty and salty from the aged cheese, with a shock kick from the black pepper.

When you’re 30 and single, there’s an expectation to make your life large, as a result of there’s nothing holding you again from doing so. But typically, you simply need one thing easy. Dating isn’t easy. Making real grownup friendships isn’t easy. But cacio e pepe is. 

I’ve made a few awful lasagnas, however I’ve by no means made a crappy cacio e pepe, although the dish is simple to mess up. (Get distracted and your noodles turn out to be clumped with cheese, as an alternative of swimming in a silky sauce.) But even at its worst, cacio e pepe will all the time style good. And in the midst of a pandemic, when so many issues really feel out of management, predictability will be a blessing.  

Cacio e pepe will also be a clean slate for creativity, and when I’m on my own I don’t have to think about anybody else. I as soon as dated a man who didn’t like spicy meals, and wouldn’t a lot as permit a pinch of purple pepper flakes close to his dish. That relationship didn’t final, however my penchant for including purple pepper to each savory dish I make — together with cacio e pepe — did.  

Chefs would scoff in the event that they knew what else I included in my cacio e pepe recipe, which isn’t a recipe, however an assortment of staple substances I all the time have in my fridge and pantry. A pat of butter? Not normal, however in it goes. A leftover clove of garlic? Add that in too. During this pandemic work, play, and train have turn out to be regimented; they’re a every day examine on my to-do record. Cooking dishes like cacio e pepe, although, is the place I can go off-script — I really feel safe sufficient in my familiarity of the bottom recipe to confidently play with it every now and then.

Most recipes cater to events of 4 or six — the serving sizes are by no means pleasant to solo diners. I cook dinner for myself, and though I take pleasure in leftovers, I don’t take pleasure in six meals’ value. But cacio e pepe will be simply halved or eyeballed to accommodate one serving dimension. (Trust me — I communicate from a lot of expertise right here.)

After a day of back-to-back video convention calls and doom scrolling on Twitter, I make cacio e pepe in my work-from-home uniform: black leggings, a sweatshirt, and slippers. Cacio e pepe doesn’t demand you gown for dinner just like the a lot sexier pasta alla vodka. This is consolation meals. 

I mince a clove of garlic and sauté it with butter, black pepper, and purple pepper flakes. I don’t normally have a hunk of Pecorino Romano, so I grate its shut cousin, Parmigiano Reggiano. The cooked pasta, with the assistance of a few tablespoons of starchy water, will get combined in with the cheese and garlic butter till mixed.

I plate the cacio e pepe in my “good bowls,” those that haven’t been chipped out of love and haste, and settle in for a evening of leisure. I name it my cacio e pepe ritual. A twice-a-month observe that elevates the expertise of eating in throughout a pandemic. My cacio e pepe was all the time good, however the ritual of making it brings me pleasure. Like so many individuals, I’ve discovered to prize the trivia of what makes up my life: a hug from a roommate (one of the few individuals I’ve had bodily contact with in the previous yr), a household FaceTime that retains multiplying, and something that jogs my memory of when life was a little extra “normal.”

My 2020 resolutions (haha), which included journeys overseas, a promotion, and opening myself to assembly somebody, have been meant to be validations of dwelling a good life. I turned 30 in May, a birthday I assumed would really feel vital, however in actuality, felt like my twenty fifth — however with cracking joints. At 30, I was nonetheless single, nonetheless determining my profession, and nonetheless dwelling with a roommate. I’m not an anomaly dwelling in Los Angeles, and but, I couldn’t assist however suppose of the previous decade, and ask myself: Did I do it proper? Did I have enjoyable even by the years of despair, heartache, horrible jobs, and terrible roommates? 

Cacio e pepe isn’t a remedy for loneliness, nor can it repair a damaged coronary heart, or inform your poisonous boss to go to hell, however it may be a solution to take care of your self in a world that’s so in flux. Love languages are ineffective until you know the way to provide your self what you need first. 

Taylor Henriquez


Taylor Henriquez is a author and producer primarily based in Los Angeles. She’s written for, Eater, Healthyish, and Teen Vogue. Most lately, she wrote “Wines & Signs,” a wine zine for individuals who need to study the fundamentals of wine with out the snoot. When Taylor’s not scrolling by zodiac meme accounts, she will be discovered reviewing wine on her Instagram @taylorhenriquez.

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