Cacio e Pepe

Serves 3 to 4

3 oz. ground pecorino
4 tbs. unsalted butter
3 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. dried spaghetti

Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil. Once boiling season heavily with salt (3 tablespoons of kosher salt per gallon of water). Add the spaghetti and cook until firm to the bite, stirring occasionally. Drain and reserve a cup of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the black pepper and cook, swirling the pan until toasted and fragrant, about 1 minute. Slowly pour in ¾ cup of pasta water, simmer for 1 minute. Add in the pasta and pecorino, tossing until the cheese starts melts, and a sauce starts to form. Once the pasta is coated, garnish with cracked black pepper. Serve Hot. coats the pasta

Ziti alla Marinara

Serves 4

¼ cup tomato paste
3 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 28oz can whole roma tomatoes
1 28oz can crushed roma tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ red onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
3 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp. red pepper flake
2 tsp. sugar
½ cup dry red wine
1 tsp. fresh basil
1 tsp. fresh thyme
½ cup chicken Stock
1 lb. dried ziti

Drain the can of whole tomatoes, and roughly chop. Combine the chopped tomatoes with the can of crushed tomatoes, and set aside.

In a large stockpot, sauté the finely chopped red onion with the extra virgin olive oil for 3 to 4 minutes, or until just golden brown. Stir in the garlic and sauté for an additional minute. Once the aromatics are sautéed add in the tomato paste and sauté for another 2 minutes on medium heat, making sure to stir constantly. Add in the wine and stock, and simmer for another minute.

Stir in the mixture of tomatoes, kosher salt, black pepper, red pepper flake, dried herbs, fresh thyme, and sugar. Simmer the sauce for 30 to 45 minutes, making sure to stir occasionally.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. Once boiling season heavily with salt (3 tablespoons of kosher salt per gallon of water). Add the spaghetti and cook until firm to the bite, stirring occasionally. Toss with the marinara sauce. Garnish with fresh basil and ground parmesan. Serve hot.

About Robert Pickert, Class of 2021

Robert Pickert, Jr. was in the midst of transitioning to college when his first cookbook The Adolescent Chef was published in April of 2017.

Now a senior at Dominican, he is the Student Trustee and headed toward a career in accounting, despite having had his culinary success catch the attention of DNAinfo, a Chicago neighborhood news site, and Good Morning Chicago.  He has also written a second cookbook Mangia! (which translates to Eat! in Italian).

Robert began cooking at the age of five by helping his grandmother, and was seven years old when he starting taking culinary courses for children. “My grandmother inspired me to become a chef. I was practically raised in her home because my parents were working all the time, she always cooked for us. She would make me and my siblings help with things like cutting veggies or peeling things. This introduced me to the culinary world.”

Robert went to Kendall College in 6th grade for advanced culinary courses. These courses were meant for high school seniors “I was the youngest person in the course and I was able to keep up with the rest of the students,” he explained.  By the time he was halfway through high school, he was an employee in Tria Sorelle, a catering extension to Bridgeport’s Fabulous Freddies Italian Eatery.

It wasn’t until after a trip to Europe that he began his journey to becoming one of the handfuls of young adults to ever publish a cookbook. It was for this reason that his first cookbook was named The Adolescent Chef.

His inspiration was derived not only from his grandmother, but his travels as well. “My grandmother was Polish, but I’m Italian. I was fascinated with the Italian world, the spices, and herbs. I personally traveled to Italy and loved the culture,” he said, “My favorite part of the book is when I describe the first pizza I had in Rome. It’s in the intro to the entrees, I also love making the Mushroom Risotto, they are my favorite recipes in this book.”

“I wanted to distinguish my book from others while also promoting myself, I wrote the book when I was 17 and published it when I was 18.” The Adolescent Chef contains more than 30 recipes primarily focusing on Mediterranean styled food.

His newest book, Mangia!, walks the reader through all 20 regions of Italy, highlighting several well-known Italian dishes and where they come from. It provides a brief history of the region, both geographically and culinarily. For example, the book explains why certain regions use only certain foods and ingredients. He has written the recipes to be straight-forward and user friendly. His recipe for Osso Buco is from Lombardy, the region of Italy most affected by COVID-19.

On a more personal note, Robert shares that he comes from an Italian American household and grew-up engulfed in the culture on the south side of Chicago. His grandparents lived next door to him and cooked all of the time. Mangia!  is dedicated to them—to show how food is such a huge part of his life. As a child, he would help his father and grandfather make wine, bread, soppressata, press olives, and pick wild mushrooms.  Italian cuisine has always had a special place in his heart.

As for writing the second book, Pickert expresses the difficulty of this task. “Some recipes needed work and constant testing and editing, although it was hard, I look forward to writing another one.” As for his favorite words of encouragement, Pickert says, “Live life with flavor.”

Text put together from an article by Ashlynn Hill, the DU Star, 2017 and current information from Robert Pickert.