October 20th is International Chef's Day. It's a day intended to commemorate the chefs, professional or otherwise in our lives. Whether they're the reliable chefs at your favorite restaurant or good'ol home cooks that keep delivering deliciousness daily. 



Today, I honor the original chef in my life, my dear grandma "Nana " who just turned 86 last week! The first dish I ever learned to cook was this pasta recipe that my grandma would make for my brother, my cousin, and me every time we went over.

Like most kids we liked buttery noodles, but my grandma stepped it up by adding basil, a lot of pepper, and a ton of Parmesan cheese.

It was much later in life that I learned my grandma was cooking a classic Italian dish that some would say is the original mac and cheese, called 'cacio e pepe.'

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Essentially peppery, cheesy, buttery noodles. My grandma's twist was to add a heap of dried basil which adds an irresistible earthy flavor. Another variation my grandma added was frying the pasta after boiling it, in butter. It adds a crave-worthy chewiness to the penne pasta that brings out the nuttiness' of the butter that makes for a satisfying bite.

Below is my grandma's original recipe for her 'Pasta Alla Nana.' Included are some of the twists I've added on my own in the past few years. Hope you enjoy!



Photo by Nico Adjemian


Penne Pasta

4 TBS Unsalted Butter

1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan

Dried Basil

Course Pepper


(Optional) Red Pepper Flakes

(Optional) Deveined Uncooked Shrimp



Photo by Nico Adjemian

On high heat boil about half a box of penne pasta in a large pot of water that is extremely well salted. Drain (save 2 TBS of pasta water) and set aside.




Photo by Nico Adjemian

In a large frying pan melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter over medium high heat, making sure to constantly move the butter to avoid burning.

Once butter is mostly melted, add boiled penne pasta to pan along with 2 TBS of reversed pasta water.



Photo by Nico Adjemian

Wait 30 seconds to allow pasta to begin frying then add salt, remaining two tablespoons of unsalted butter, grind a lot of coarse ground pepper, and stir.



Photo by Nico Adjemian

Wait about 1 minute and add heap of dried basil (like a lot) and stir. (Optional) Add some red pepper flakes



Photo by Nico Adjemian

Continue cooking for about 2 - 4 min and then transfer to plate using SLOTTED SPOON to avoid transferring residual butter.




Photo by Nico Adjemian

Sprinkle or freshly grate half a cup parmesan over plated pasta. Serve and ENJOY!




Photo by Nico Adjemian

Return pan with residual butter and spices to medium-high heat. Add thawed uncooked deveined shrimp to pan making sure at least one side of each shrimp is in contact with the pan and not crowding other shrimp.



Photo by Nico Adjemian

Cook for about 1 minute per side and while shrimp is cooking add salt, pepper, basil and red pepper flakes.



Flip shrimp when it has changed colors from Blue to Pink. After 1 minute on each side stir pasta frequently for another 2 to 3 minutes making sure most of the blue color in the shrimp is gone.



Photo by Nico Adjemian

Remove from heat and serve on pasta.



Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

A simple six ingredient pasta meal that uses staple pantry items yet delivers knockout flavors and a satisfying full feeling afterwards? It really just doesn't get any better than that! If I had to eat one thing every day for the rest of my life this would definitely be it.


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