Family dinners seem like a lovely idea. Everyone pausing in the middle of an otherwise stressful and busy week to gather around a spread of delicious food and connect. The reality of a family dinner is more like one child whining that there is too much salt on the french fries while the other kid complains that the food looks strange. It can feel like there are two options – make one meal for everyone, like it or not, and grit your teeth through the grating. There is also one convenient way to please them all, and this is to become a short-order cook by whipping up a variety of mini-meals.
What Is “Whatever Dinner”?
Once a kid hits a certain skill level or age, a third option suddenly appears, and this is the “Whatever Night.” It’s exactly what it sounds like – answering the question “What’s for dinner tonight?” with “Whatever.” It can be interpreted also as the “Every Man for Himself” dinner.
Author and journalist Katie Bingham-Smith wrote that she implemented the Whatever Night when it became more than clear that no matter how she prepared a meal, her three teenagers would morph into instant food critics who would object to everything – from the chewiness of the steak to the meltiness of the cheese. She then decided that her children were old enough to make their meals.
Grocery Shopping Is Still Necessary, Though
In one of her articles, she shares that the only thing she needs to do is go to the store and get a bunch of things, everything from frozen meals to fresh veggies and fruits. She also gets staples like rice, bread, pasta, and peanut butter. This way, her kids can make whatever they want for dinner.
One thing she is not compromising on is the actual sitting around the dinner table as a family. She sets the dinner time and they all gather to eat.
A Simple Yet Delicious Recipe for Cacio e Pepe to Make at Home
Cacio e Pepe is a popular Roman pasta dish that is not only delicious but also quite simple to make. It’s simplistic as it only requires 3 main ingredients that make preparing the dish practically impossible to get wrong. It’s so simple that you or your kids can recreate the dish with ease. Plus, it can be served on a regular weeknight or for a more fancy occasion.
The trickiest part of the entire dish is figuring out how to properly turn the dry cheese and reserved pasta water into a creamy sauce. It’s all about portion control and the trick is quite simple to master. Make sure that the cheese is at room temperature before beginning. The leftover pasta water should also not be too hot when added to the skillet so that the cheese doesn’t coagulate and get lumpy. The key is to have a smooth and creamy sauce, without any lumps.
While you should be able to get the hang of things the first time around, the recipe for Cacio e Pepe only gets easier to follow with more attempts. Here’s how to make it at home:
- 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups of spaghetti or bucatini pasta
- 2 tablespoons of crushed black peppercorns
- 1 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
- 1 cup of Pecorino Romano cheese, grated, plus some for garnish
How to Make the Pasta
- Start by heating the extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the black peppercorns to the skillet so that they can toast. Stir occasionally until the peppercorns start to sizzle, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Prepare the pasta so that it’s al dente according to the directions on the package. Once cooked to your desired taste, use tongs or a spider spatula to transfer the pasta into a colander to drain. Reserve some of the cooking liquid from the pot and set it aside.
- Add the cheese into the heated oil skillet and, using the residual heat, add ¼ cup of the reserved cooking liquid. Gently whisk until the water has been absorbed and the mixture has the consistency of a chunky paste.
- Add ¼ cup of cooking liquid and whisk until the mixture is thick and smooth.
- Add the drained pasta into the mixture and stir until the pasta is well-coated. Stir in ¼ cup of cooking liquid at a time until a creamy sauce forms and coats the pasta. Divide the pasta and plate the Cacio e Pepe by garnishing the top with Pecorino Romano cheese.