Cacio e Pepe: Italian comfort food

When I studied abroad in Siena during the summer of 2015, this dish was my go-to dinner when eating out. It translates to “cheese and pepper,” and it’s the Italian version of mac ‘n cheese. AKA the best comfort food you’ll come across.

In Siena, Cacio e Pepe was made with Pici pasta–a special kind of thick spaghetti that’s really only made in the region. It’s also typically made with Pecorino Romano, a strong sheep’s milk cheese. If you want a bit of a more mild taste, substitute 2/3 of the amount you need with Parmigiano-Reggiano, and it’ll still taste great.

It’s important to have finely grated cheese for a smooth sauce. Large shreds will clump together. Also, don’t drain that pasta water! You’ll need some of it for the sauce.

Maybe summer is the time for light, fresh, citrusy recipes, which this dish is absolutely not. But it’s also the time for trying out new things, so get to it!

recipe from

Cacio e Pepe

What you’ll need:

  • 4 tablespoons (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Coarsely ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 pound (225g) spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons (15g) unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese (about 1 cup; 55g), very finely grated on a Microplane or the smallest holes of a box grater, plus more for serving

    Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil and about a teaspoon of black pepper in a medium skillet over medium-low heat until ingredients are fragrant and pepper is barely starting to sizzle, about 1 minute. Set aside

    Place spaghetti in a large skillet and cover with water. Season with a small pinch of salt, then bring to a boil over high heat, prodding spaghetti occasionally with a fork or wooden spoon to prevent it from clumping. Cook until spaghetti is al dente (typically about 1 minute less than the package recommends). Transfer 2 to 3 tablespoons of pasta cooking water to the skillet with the olive oil/pepper mixture. Stir in butter. Using tongs, lift spaghetti and transfer it to the oil/butter mixture.

    Add cheese and remaining tablespoon olive oil to the skillet and stir with a fork until cheese is completely melted. Add a few more tablespoons of pasta water to the skillet to adjust consistency, reheating as necessary until the sauce is creamy and coats each strand of spaghetti. Season to taste with salt and more black pepper. Serve immediately, passing extra grated cheese and black pepper at the table.


5 YouTube channels to watch this summer

I watch a lot of YouTube. A lot. Of YouTube.

I remember being introduced to the world of beauty gurus in 2010. For hours, I’d watch teenage girls demonstrate how to cake on makeup to achieve a “natural look.”

Six years later, the world of beauty gurus, and YouTube in general, is much different. Talented makeup artists, comedians, and gamers make a living (and a good one at that) posting videos every couple days to their channels. Some rank upwards of ten million subscribers.

People like PewDiePie, Tyler Oakley, and Lily Singh have made names for themselves through YouTube and have really become celebrities because of their videos.

Being entertained by the YouTube world for several years now, I have more than a couple of suggestions for any gal (or guy) who wants to spend five to ten minutes of their life watching people do things. Let’s get to it.

Good Mythical Morning

Self-proclaimed “internetainers” Rhett McGlaughlin and Link Neal started their daily morning show on YouTube in 2010. But their friendship began in 1984 when they were first-graders in Boise Creek, North Carolina. The duo posts a video every morning that is a variety show, of sorts. Whether they’re telling us about the creepiest nursery rhymes, or testing out some extreme cookies, Rhett and Link never fail to make us laugh. Their kooky sense of humor and friendship shows through in each episode, which makes their videos that much more fun to watch.


The Fashion Citizen

Any lover of fashion and design will enjoy these Arizona twins’ videos. Stephanie and Melissa Valenzuela post videos about twice a week, each focusing on some aspect of fashion and personal style. The two have a unique sense of style, inspired by classic brands like Zara and more vintage vibes, as well. Their go-to store? Goodwill. Each Sunday, they upload a week of vlog (video blog) footage, and take us through what their daily routine looks like. Steph and Mel have a knack for editing, too, and they create cool visuals for their audience to enjoy.



The name may turn you off, but his videos won’t. Each week, Evan Puschak uploads a video-essay. That is, he narrates his exploration of a topic very thoughtfully and analytically, while presenting us with the visuals. The subjects tend to be parts of pop culture, such as an analysis of Rihanna’s “Work.” They can be pretty serious and informative too, as seen with his video on wasted tax dollars. Evan responds to accusations of sounding”pretentious” in a Q&A video, and doesn’t deny it in the least. But whatever pretentiousness there may be in his voice doesn’t trump the truly fascinating insight he has. Speaking of Trump, my favorite video of his explains Trump’s influence on democracy.

Brad & Hailey Devine

Ok, hate to sound like a millennial, but Brad and Hailey are #goals. If you’re looking for a virtual escape to an exotic location, or a way to ease some of your wanderlust, take a look at their travel vlogs. The couple, along with their little daughter (and another one on the way!) visit interesting places across the globe while looking effortlessly stunning and being adorably in love. From Tokyo to Cinque Terre, the Devines go everywhere, and they travel in style. And they make it look so easy. I can’t decide whether my envy or love of them is stronger, but one thing’s for sure: I can’t stop watching them.



Hannah Hart started her YouTube show My Drunk Kitchen as a way to cheer up a friend. She never expected her one-time getting-drunk-and-cooking experience to turn into a series that draws in 2.5 million subscribers. Now, she regularly uploads episodes, using puns to connect food with life lessons. Sound a little contrived? Hannah’s sense of humor and kindness always shines through, keeping things genuine. She has branched out, too–her second book is on its way to stores, and her “Have a Hart Day” initiative has brought fans together to raise money for multiple charities across the country. Hannah’s slogan, “practice reckless optimism” is the focal point of her channel and it always keeps me watching.







Who am I really?: Why poutine and life are astonishingly similar

It wasn’t until March of this past year that I experienced the heavenly, confusing, Canadian classic that is poutine.

My friends and I hit up Smoke’s Poutinterie on Dundas Street East in Toronto one rainy afternoon post-exploring the downtown area. We were exhausted, wanted quick food, and were planning on getting poutine at some point during our four-day trip.

The shop was small with only counter seating, so we got some to go. I ordered your standard poutine with some bacon, and let me tell you, it was something.

When I opened my black and red flannel-print to-go box, the aroma of, well, salt, filled the air. On top of a heaping handful of thickly-cut french fries laid a heavy gravy, tons of cheese curds, and a more than generous amount of bacon.

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I dove in, and let’s just say there wasn’t much texture. Other than the firm, squeaky cheese, the whole thing was soggy, brown, and almost too salty. But I loved it.

The larger dent I made, the more I thought about how this poutine embodied life. At a first glance, it kind of looked like a large pile of beige, which I can relate to. But delving deeper, I realized poutine had so much more to offer. The familiarity of french fries, the indulgence of bacon, the refreshing change of scenery of the cheese curds, and the homey taste of the gravy came together to make something new, interesting, and comforting.

Like me at many points during the day, you may think your life is defined by your saltiness, apparent dullness, or unhealthy habits. But we’re all so much more than that. We have gravy running through us to keep us warm and happy. We have bits of cheese curds inside us to keep things interesting. And sharing our lives, or our poutine, with others is what gives us the real drive to live.

As Harry Styles once said:

“There’s more than three things we love about Canada. One: poutine! Two: poutine! Three…no, poutine was one and two. This is number three. Number three is…poutine!”


Visit Smoke’s Poutinerie’s website here: