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Chrissy Teigen's Lemony Arugula Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe recipe is an easy, flavorful weeknight meal

Lemony Arugula Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe from Chrissy Teigen's cookbook "Cravings" is essential weeknight carb-loading. (PATTY YABLONSKI, Times)
Lemony Arugula Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe from Chrissy Teigen's cookbook "Cravings" is essential weeknight carb-loading. (PATTY YABLONSKI, Times)
Published Mar. 13, 2018

I'm a glutton for pasta. All I need is some homemade red sauce and lots of Parmesan, and that's a weekly dinner in my house. But every now and then, I try to find another way to carb it up. Enter Chrissy Teigen, whose Twitter account has been stalking me with her simple pasta dish, Lemony Arugula Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe, one she has called one of her "top five in the book."

That book is Teigen's cookbook, Cravings, which is filled with indulgent recipes and hilarious stories about her love affair with food, and her husband, musician John Legend. It came out two years ago, but it seems everyone is still obsessed with it.

Probably because it's not for those on a rigid diet. Teigen might be a beautiful celebrity with a banging bod, but the girl's got an appetite for delicious eats just like all of us. The best part: She provides new ways to use familiar ingredients. And pasta is my family.

This perfect weeknight spaghetti comes together quickly, and as I learned, takes focus.

With an ER episode (thanks, Hulu!) loudly beeping in the background, I prepared everything as the pasta cooked: chopped the bacon and garlic; squeezed two lemons; and grated much more cheese than I needed. Make sure to reserve a cup of the pasta water. It helps melt the cheese, though you won't need to use a whole cup.

With everything ready to go, it was time to heat the skillet. As George Clooney heroically saved a drowning kid, I burned the bacon. Maybe watching TV while cooking with grease wasn't such a good idea.

The ER docs resuscitate patients all the time. I can save this dish. I hit pause as Dr. Ross rose out of the water. I needed to concentrate. I cooked more bacon, this time, making sure things didn't get extra-crispy.

As skeptical as I was to make a pasta without a true sauce, the intense flavor created in this recipe more than makes up for it. Lemon juice is any chef's secret weapon, and here, it's like an electric shock to the savory and spice.

Now that I've made this dish a few more times — diagnosing a slightly new flavor profile each time — I can say wholeheartedly that I prefer using pancetta. It's not as salty, so as to give the other flavors room to shine. Plus, Boar's Head pre-packages it already diced.

However, when it comes to spice, I've got wimpy taste buds, so I only use a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. But I like adding more arugula, so I don't feel completely guilty for carb-loading. Plus, it's got its own fiery kick that pairs well with black pepper.

Teigen says to add more cheese when you serve. And it's best to do what she says, and add all the cheese you have. This isn't the time to be totally healthy.

Because I'm cooking only for myself, I get lots of leftovers from this recipe. Instead of popping it in the microwave to reheat, I put the pasta back in my skillet for a few minutes with a splash of extra-virgin olive oil, mixing as it heats. Then I add a small handful of fresh arugula and, obviously, more cheese, and toss it around for another couple of minutes, until heated through.

It tastes just as good as the first night. And I don't have to miss as many heart-racing ER moments.

Contact Brittany Volk at bvolk@tampabay.com. Follow @bevolk.