Cacio e Pepe
Glistening pasta in watercolor + pasta inspirations and muses
I’ve always wanted to paint a really large plate of beautiful fresh pasta. I knew I wanted it to be extra noodly and classic, nothing with a red sauce that would take away from the pasta itself (and possibly get a bit gory looking on a large scale tbh). Cacio e pepe seems to me to be one of the more iconic, simple and delicious pasta dishes out there. Simply translated as ‘cheese and pepper’; it is fresh pasta with lots of black pepper and pecorino cheese. It’s also one of those seems simple but takes a certain amount of skill and finesse to really make a good version of it kind of dishes.
Bring in my friend Laine Myers who owns Oro here in Richmond. Honestly she makes some of the best pasta I have had anywhere. I knew that she could make some beautiful cacio e pepe for my muse.
For this painting I also hired my friend Kate Thompson to take the reference photos for me, just so I could make sure to get all the detail and glistening strands of pasta possible. Using a great camera (and a great eye) is SO useful in my process as I have mentioned in previous posts. I generally will shoot my reference shots myself with my iphone, but occasionally I just feel like the subject calls for more to be captured. With such a simple looking dish, I felt like a professional camera could pull out all the color and detail my phone might miss.
Laine cooked up a delicious fresh dish of the pasta in her kitchen one rainy afternoon, and Kate stood by the window and took some perfect shots for me, all styled on one of my favorite porcelain plates created by my friend Megan.
I painted this one on 22x30” stonehenge paper (my go-to for larger pieces). It was tricky trying to get the right almost yellow cream shade for the pasta, but between case for making watercolors and prismacolor colored pencils, I was able to get there. I also found myself getting a bit lost in the strands, like trying to untie a knot and following one strand but then discovering you are now onto another strand. It was a lesson in patience and noticing for sure.
I painted this piece in March of 2022 right before I was heading to Europe to teach some watercolor classes. Raw Milk retreats hosted me in Provence where I got to eat all of the cheese, drink all of the rosé and taught several wonderful art students who I still keep in touch with and am friends with today. I then got to bounce up to an area near Grenoble to visit a friend living there, and then on down to Rome and Sicily to meet my husband for a two year belated honeymoon trip. This was my first international trip since the pandemic and real Italian pasta was definitely on my mind. In fact, the first meal I had when we landed in Rome was cacio e pepe.
While I painted this pasta, I thought a lot about all of the many incredible Italian nonnas who lovingly and willingly create these pasta doughs every single day, in so many shapes, sizes and textures. Pasta has got to be one of the most creative food canvases out there, and also one of the most precious. So many ways you can make it, yet also, so important to follow the precise and delicate rules that go along with each kind to get that perfect bite.
There is a sense of devotion that goes into making pasta from scratch, as there is a devotion to working in watercolor. Sticking with the process, having patience and being attentive to what the painting or dough might be needing from moment to moment. I’m so grateful for the many ways we get to create with these hands, and how so much pleasure and enjoyment comes out of both the making and the feasting. This painting really represents that devotional and nourishing spirit to me.
The original painting sold earlier this year to a real cacio e pepe connoisseur, but you can still find prints in many a size via my shop (AND! I’ll be running a print sale at the start of next month. See more details below*)
Current Inspirations and musings…
-If you aren’t familiar with The Pasta Grannies, I highly recommend watching literally all of their pasta making content immediately.
-Oro pasta is starting up their Fall CSA. Yes, a pasta CSA!! They deliver a fresh pasta to your door biweekly for 12 weeks. A brilliant way to discover new pastas and a very easy and delicious weeknight meal. Plus, Laine includes a curated recipe with each pasta.
-Speaking of pasta, did you know that new pasta shapes are still being invented?! Dan Pashman of the Sporkful podcast created this fun shape called cascatelli. You can learn about the creation story on his podcast here.
-I love all of the art created by Marianna Fiero and especially her mortadella dish towel.
From Sunday October 1st-11th, you can take 15% off all prints in my shop with the code AUTUMNLOVE. There will be many pieces already discounted too, so make sure to take advantage of this sale before the holidays!
A happy turning of summer to fall, the last of the tomatoes and the first of the gourds, the last of the early light and the first of the darker evenings. Happy equinox time. May you celebrate the abundance in your life and give thanks for all that has been and all that is yet to be.
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