Cacio e Pepe

 

This old-time Roman dish has become fashionable lately, and you’ll find it on the menus of the priciest Italian restaurants. But don’t let that turn you off—there’s actually nothing pretentious at all about cacio e pepe.

Great for a weeknight dinner or spur of the moment spaghettata, to make cacio e pepe you simply toss just-boiled pasta with lots of grated pecorino romano and freshly ground black pepper. With only four ingredients, if you count the pinch of salt for the pasta water—nothing could be more quintessentially Italian in its exquisite simplicity. And yet cacio e pepe is not that easy to master. Get your technique wrong, and this dish can turn into a rather unattractive mess. But no worries, let me give you a few tips that will have you whipping up your own perfect cacio e pepe in no time.

Directions

Boil the pasta in well salted water, drain it—but not too well—and pour it into a large, warmed mixing bowl.

Add the grated pecorino and lots of freshly ground pepper, and mix very well until the hot water that clings to the pasta melts the cheese to make a kind of creamy sauce.

Serve on heated plates, topped f you want with more grated pecorino and another healthy grinding of pepper.

Ingredients

  • 400 grams of Spaghetti (if you can find Tonnarelli better)
  • About 200-250 grams of high quality Pecorino Romano cheese (the more aged the better)
  • Black pepper to taste (better if freshly ground)
  • Coarse salt (yes you will need some even though Pecorino Romano has lots of salt, otherwise the dish will be bland)

Method

Grate Pecorino Romano cheese.

In the meantime bring water to a boil in a tall pot.  The level of water should not exceed ¾ of the pot’s height. Keep in mind that for 100 grs of pasta, you should use 10 grs of salt and 1 liter of water.

When water boils, add salt. Consider that Pecorino Romano cheese is very salty, therefore, my advice is to add HALF of the amount of salt for cooking Cacio e Pepe.

Add pasta and cook al dente.

1-2 minutes before pasta is cooked, place a serving bowl on top of the pot to heat it. This is a very important step in order to get a creamy sauce.

Reserve some pasta water using a ladle. While you’re boiling spaghetti, the pasta releases starch into the water.  Since starch is naturally sticky, it helps Pecorino Romano cheese fats to amalgamate well with both water and pasta.

Drain pasta and transfer it to the heated serving bowl.

Gradually add Pecorino Romano cheese and water tossing vigorously until you get a creamy consistency.

If the sauce becomes too watery, add Pecorino Romano cheese; if it becomes too dry, add water.

Season with lots of freshly ground black pepper and toss.

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