If you read Holiday Cheer, you probably have a pretty good idea of how summer holidays are done in my family.  And if you’ve ever lived in a New York City apartment, you’re familiar with the lack of picnic table space on the average fire escape.  These two factors do very little to prepare me for the upcoming holiday.  To be fair, I do have some vague, distant, outdoor memories of summer holidays, but mostly dad grilled outside and mom cooked inside and we ate around the dining room table.  Luckily, Mike’s family enjoyed such holidays like most normal families in this country, outside, around a picnic table, with paper plates, plastic cups and burgers and dogs on the grill.  Whew.  There’s hope for me yet.

That said, we can recount no picnic activity from the past two July 4th holidays that we’ve spent together.  The pictures don’t lie.  There are no picnics to be found on the many devices that house our photo history together.  I fear I’m becoming a bad influence!  In fact, as we wrapped up the long work week late in the day today, we hardly kicked off the long holiday weekend awaiting us.  With no real “holiday” plans to speak of, not even dinner plans for tonight, I’m reminded that this is what is meant by “all work and no play…”

We couldn’t even come up with a dinner menu.  Grumpy from spreadsheets and deadlines and failed video conferences, our banter was anything but light.  It was anything but banter!  Grumblings behind us, an empty fridge in front of us and we realized we needed to salvage this Friday and satisfy our growing hunger!  So we decided on something as American as apple pie…spaghetti cacio e pepe!  Yeah.  We need work.  This is a recipe neither of us has ever made before so we consulted the internet and got to work.  Finally, this day is looking up!  In the time it took to boil water and cook pasta, we had the most amazing spaghetti dinner.  It might not fit the season, but the sentiment was spot on.  Because if my parents taught me anything, it is the importance of family, friends and sharing a good meal together.  It can be a special occasion, a random Tuesday or something in between.  Just don’t let the moment pass you by and be sure to share it with the ones you love.  So since I’m completely lacking in picnic savvy, I’m going to share the recipe we made tonight, with you here in this 4th of July blog post!  That’s Italian!

As for the rest of this patriotic weekend, we have the Italy vs. Germany Euro game tomorrow, gelato with our dear friend Elisa and her family visiting from Italy on Sunday and maybe, just maybe I can convince Mike to take a trip to Philly.  Because for the first time in a long time, I’m really home sick.  Happy 4th of July everyone!  It’s not the the type of food you eat or where you eat it, but those you enjoy the meal with.  What is your favorite summer holiday food? Tell us in the comments.

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe
1 pound spaghetti, bucatini or tonarelli
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorn (give or take depending on your taste)
1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese in reserve (or more to taste)
1 wooden spoon full of salt (or salt to taste)
Reserved pasta water (more on that below)

Bring a pot of water to boil but first add the salt.

While the water is being heated to a boil:
Fill your pasta bowl with very hot water to keep it warm.
Grind the peppercorns coarsely (with a pepper mill, spice grinder or if your feeling adventurous, a mortar and pestle).
Grate 1 cup of Pecorino Romano cheese.

When the water comes to a boil add your pasta to the pot and cook until al dente.
Remove the hot water from your pasta bowl.
Then set aside some of the pasta water before draining the pasta (or removing the pasta with tongs).
Add the pasta to the warm pasta bowl and immediately add the grated cheese and most of the pepper.
Mix quickly and add in some of the reserved pasta water to moisten and incorporate the cheese and pepper (cacio e pepe)
Serve right away while the pasta is hot!  Pasta waits for no one!
Use the remaining pepper and cheese to add to the pasta at the dinner table to your taste.

You can have your cheese grated for you at the grocery store or deli or you can grate it yourself.  Just do NOT buy pre-packaged cheese (step away from the green shaker) at all costs!  Seriously, just order pizza if it comes to that.