Ramen cacio e pepe
What’s gonna happen
At the rate you’re eating ramen, you should really go for it. You’re not eating it to be healthy so don’t let this recipe scare the you that’s already hit the trail five times this week.
Let’s make a lazy man’s cacio e pepe. We’re going to cook ramen in milk to infuse extra richness and transform the ramen into a semi-Italian treat. Then we’re going to melt parmesan cheese into the milk and ramen for a thick cheese sauce. Generous cracks of black pepper stirred into the sauce will complete this simple dish. This makes 1-2 servings, depending on how hungry you are, if there’s a salad, if you’re a dude, whatever.
As you shop or check your pantry, keep in mind that the "flavor" of the ramen, whether that's chicken or seafood, doesn’t matter – we just need the noodles. The packet of flavor can be used to reinforce (chef speak for “spice up”) a soup, vegetable dish or meat dish. No reason to throw out that master dose of sodium.
What to know
Not to scare you, but cooking with milk can be a bit tricky if you try to do too much too quickly. For this recipe, you need to reduce the milk by half, meaning that you want the volume of the milk to cook down to one and one quarter cup for this recipe. Reducing allows the milk to thicken to a near sauce-like consistency by basically cooking the water out of it. You need to heat this over medium heat at most; if it’s heated up too quickly, the milk has a tendency to expand and gush over the sides your pot. And you don’t want to clean that up. Stirring the milk occasionally as it heats will also ensure that the milk doesn’t get too hot too fast with the added benefit of ensuring that it doesn’t burn to the bottom.
What you need
1 package Ramen, like Maruchan Ramen Noodle Soup
2 ½ cups milk (the higher the fat percentage, the richer the dish)
1 cup parmigiano reggiano, grated, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish
Black pepper, freshly cracked, to taste
How it works
Heat milk over medium heat in a saucepan, or whatever pan you normally make ramen in. Allow milk to reduce by half at a steady simmer, stirring it occasionally to ensure that it doesn’t stick to the base of the pan.
While the milk reduces, grate your parmesan if it’s not pre-grated.
Once the milk has reduced by half, add the ramen. After one minute, flip the ramen block with a wooden spoon and stir, separating the noodles. Cook for another two minutes, stirring occasionally. The ramen should be al dente – come on, this is almost Italian food.
Remove from heat, then add the parmesan. Stir gently as the parmesan melts so as not to break the noodles. Crack a generous amount of black pepper over the top and stir until incorporated; I use about a quarter teaspoon personally. The parmesan should take care of the salt, but add salt if you need it.
Finish the cacio e pepe with grated parmesan, a few cracks of black pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Now, pour yourself a glass of cab sav – you deserve it.
Illustration by Robert F. Alvarez