Cacio e Pepe is an Italian pasta dish that translates to cheese and pepper. It’s a long-time standard of Roman cuisine, and one I think everybody should have in their pasta repertoire.
Recently my daughter asked if I’d ever made it, and I never have. As much as I love and respect the simplicity of authentic Italian dishes, this one probably never intrigued me enough because of the lack of “goodies” in it, like a little Prosciutto, or smoked salmon.
But I decided it was about time to make Cacio e Pepe and embrace the perfection that is a traditional pasta dish.
When I started researching the recipe online, it was like opening up an Italian Pandora’s box. There were so many criticisms of recipes, techniques, and so forth. I’ve always found that the Italians are the most passionate about their traditional recipes remaining traditional.
I personally don’t mind variations on the original, but nonetheless I closed the box and decided on the recipe I would use. The important goal of making Cacio e Pepe is a creaminess that is created without using butter or cream.
Here’s what I did.
First I grated 8 ounces of Pecorino Romano cheese and set aside.
Then I place a large pot full of salted water on the stove over high heat. I chose basic spaghetti, 16 ounces, for my pasta.
When the water boiled, I added the pasta and timed 9-10 minutes.
After the pasta was cooked, I poured some of the pasta water in a bowl, drained the pasta, and returned the pasta to the pot. I had a stirring spoon on hand, and immediate added some of the pasta water to the pot, stirring gently.
I then added about 2 teaspoons of coarsely ground pepper and the grated cheese, along with more pasta water as needed. Vigorous stirring was necessary to create a creaminess and incorporate the cheese.
Serve immediately, preferably in warmed pasta bowls.
I added more coarsely-ground pepper.
This dish is so much about the pepper!
I can now understand why this simple pasta dish has endured for centuries. I’ve always loved and respected the simplicity of many Italian dishes, but I think this one takes the cake.
However, as wonderfu as Cacio e Pepe is, tomorrow I’m adding some Prosciutto or smoked salmon.