Grana Padano "Cacio e Pepe" Pasta & My thoughts on food photography

These past few weeks, I've spent every waking minute researching and learning about food photography. I am passionate about getting better at my craft. One thing that bothers me a lot is shadows. I immediately get annoyed whenever they are too dark and drastic in my photographs. I had a conversation with some friends about shadows and a lot of them said that they don't mind the shadows because they feel that it adds dimension to the photograph. I dislike when they're so drastic to the point where that's the first thing you see when you look at the picture instead of the food. (See: the old photos I took on instagram with my iPhone)

The pictures here bothered me a lot and I contemplated on either retaking them or not posting these at all on the site. They're not so bad, but I am very critical of what I post here on the site. I want this site to reflect my best work and anything less than quality is not what I want here. I know, the average person doesn't quite care about the little details - but I do. To quote the great Erykah Badu, "Now keep in mind that I'm an artist and I'm sensitive about my sh*t."

This is why I'm showcasing to you three ways that I decided to shoot this pasta. I made a huge mistake when taking these pictures, but forget it. I have improved more since taking these photos since I decided to change where I positioned my lighting. So, I will be revisiting and reshooting this recipe in the future! 

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Now, this is what you came for. The pasta! This dish was something I came up with after I was brainstorming a quality white sauce recipe. I've been dying to try and make Cacio e Pepe, but my nieces wanted me to add my own twist and add some bacon. I made a white sauce with ghee, spanish olive oil, heavy cream, grana padano, salt & pepper, smoked paprika and herbs de provence. Then, I added my pasta and some pasta water to thin out the sauce a little. I tossed in some sweet white onions, fresh parsley, and bacon to add some sweet and salty flavors to the pasta. But THEN, a lightbulb lit up in my brain and told me to add the true star of my pasta recipes, the manuka honey garlic drizzle. Yes, manuka honey again. I told you, it's like crack.

This recipe is a little similar to my alfredo recipe except I don't use Grana Padano in that one. If you can't find any Grana Padano, then use Parmigiano Reggiano. If you want a cheese that's going to be the show-off in the dish, then this isn't the cheese for you. This cheese has a mild flavor and in this pasta, it blended in with the rest of the dish. 

Tip: if you want to kick this recipe up a notch - add some Dukkah. Dukkah is an Egyptian condiment blend of herbs, nuts, and spices. I love the texture that Dukkah adds to pasta and pizzas. I've never tried it on meat, but I hear it makes an amazing crunchy crust to salmon. I may test that out for you all and mix it with my special spice blend for salmon. 

 

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Grana Padano "Cacio e Pepe" Pasta

Serves: 3

Prep Time: 7 min

Cook Time: 25 min

Remember: I season to taste, I do not measure my seasonings.

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Ingredients:
  • 3 cups Spaghetti Noodles
  • 1/4 Cup Half & Half (add more if you prefer a thicker sauce
  • (*add more if you prefer a thicker sauce
  • 1 tbsp All Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 cup Pasta Water
  • 1/4 Cup Grana Padano (and a little more to sprinkle on top)
  • 2 Slices Uncured & Nitrate Free Bacon
  • 1/2 Sweet White Onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp Ghee
  • handful of fresh parsley
  • Trader Joe's Spanish Olive Oil Spray
  • 1 tbsp Manuka Honey
  • Seasoning: Herbs de Provence, Kosher Salt, Freshly Cracked Black Pepper, Minced Garlic, Smoked Paprika, and California Garlic Powder

Instructions:
  1. Cook your pasta noodles according to instructions. Drain, but remember to save at least 1/4 cup of pasta water for the sauce.
  2. Begin your sauce by adding the ghee and lots of spanish olive oil spray to a pan, wait for the ghee to fully melt and then add in the all purpose flour. Whisk it until a paste forms and then allow to cook for 1 minute to let the raw flour taste to cook out. Then, add your half & half and a little bit of pasta water. If you like a thinner sauce, add the entire 1/4 cup of pasta water to the pot. If you like a thicker sauce, add more half & half. Stir until the paste is dissolved into the milk. Then add your seasonings EXCEPT the minced garlic. Add in the grana padano. Then stir!
  3. Put some manuka honey, about a tsp of water, some Spanish Olive Oil spray, and the minced garlic in a bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds and whisk. Set aside.
  4. Add your noodles, onions, bacon, and fresh parsley to the pan. Add some more black pepper. Stir until well combined. Once the pasta has absorbed all of the sauce, plate and then add more black pepper. Drizzle the manuka garlic honey mixture and then top with additional grana padano.