I think that March wins for the month of the year with the most popularly observed not-quite-holidays. Last week my Facebook feed blew up over Dr. Seuss's birthday and International Women's Day, and in the next week alone there are three of these occasions important enough to pop up on my calendar.
There are four other months on the calendar without Federal or bank holidays, so why all of this celebrating in March? April has April Fool's Day, though it always seems like most people try to avoid that one, and I don't remember too many people getting excited about Flag Day in June or, oh god, I just found out there is something called Old Maid's Day on June 4th and just, no.
Is it because mid-March is when those six more weeks of winter should be over according to all reliable rodent oracles, yet there still seems to be plenty of snow and frigid temperatures on the horizon*? I guess if you are still trapped in hibernation hell by Mother Nature, it only makes sense to celebrate the crap out of every random day in order to move the calendar along to Spring.
*Unless you live in San Francisco, where this drought has gifted us with Westerosi summer.
This year, I'm limiting my celebrations, skipping the socially encouraged binge drinking but indulging in the holiday themed foods, starting with a dish that can pull double duty for two upcoming days. I recently made this take on a classic Roman pasta dish and realized it is perfect for celebrating or mourning the death of Caesar and bewaring the Ides of March. A couple days after that, any leftovers would be an appropriately colored (though, decidedly non-Irish) centerpiece to any St. Patrick's Day table, no food dye required.
This is not authentic cacio e pepe by any means, since I couldn't resist adding zucchini noodles and subbing in whole wheat pasta in a vain attempt to justify all the butter and cheese (I'm not sure that's possible when your pasta sauce consists entirely of those two ingredients plus a splash of pasta water). Seriously, don't let the green fool you. This dish is firmly on the indulgent side of healthy. However, it's rich enough that a small serving is plenty, and pairing it with a salad or more veggies would give you enough extra credit to nudge it back over the line. That's what I told myself, anyway.
Cacio e pepe (e zucchini)
I found many recipes for cacio e pepe, all with varying ratios of cheese to butter to pasta. I wound up just guessing what I thought I would need for 8 ounces of pasta plus zucchini, and I was happy with the results.
½ box (8 oz) whole wheat spaghetti
3-4 medium zucchini, cut into noodles (see note)
Extra virgin olive oil
4 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into cubes and divided
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan
- Bring a large pot of generously salted water to boil. Boil pasta until very al dente, about 9-10 minutes. Drain pasta and set aside, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Toss pasta with a little bit of olive oil if it starts to stick together.
- While pasta is boiling saute zucchini noodles in a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for about 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Wipe the skillet clean and put it back on medium heat. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and add the pepper. Cook, swirling the pan, about 1 minute.
- Add ¾ cup pasta water to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Add remaining butter and your pasta and toss (do not add the zucchini yet).
- Reduce heat to low, add in the Pecorino and toss with the pasta until melted and coating the pasta (add more pasta water if necessary).
- Remove pan from the heat and stir in the parmesan until melted, then add the zucchini noodles and toss.
- Add more ground pepper to taste and serve immediately.
- Use a mandolin, spiralizer or julienne peeler to cut your zucchini into noodles. I used a mandolin, which left me with a few scraps of zucchini after slicing. I just fried these up quickly in some olive oil and added them to my pasta as a garnish. Delicious!