Cacio e Pepe is a Roman dish that literally translates to “cheese and pepper”. What is not included in the translation is how the simple marriage of pasta, spaghetti and cheese results in a dish so simple, yet so subliminal that it transports you to another world!
We were introduced to this dish during a vacation in Rome, where a friend had taken us to a local trattoria. It was love at first sight and bite. Some time later, our taste buds savored this dish in New York City, where it was prepared to perfection just like in Rome. Be it our debut tasting at La Scalini in Rome or our multiple meals at Eataly in New York, Cacio e Pepe has moved to the tier of our favorite foods.
I’ve wanted to create this dish at home, but my Italian friends have warned me that it is not so easy. You need to cook the pasta just right, add just the right amount of pepper, use the right kind of cheese…..the list continues.
Last week, I purchased a block of Cacio Di Roma cheese at Whole Foods and that meant only one thing – I had no more excuses to not try out this dish.
Here are the ingredients I used to create the “fall in love with every bite” dish pictured above.
Cacio e Pepe recipe
One lb spaghetti or linguini
A block of Cacio Di Roma cheese, enough to make 1/2 cup grated cheese
(If you don’t get Cacio Di Roma, use a 1/4 cup each of Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino)
1/8 cup freshly ground black pepper (coarsely ground) (If you love black pepper, add more)
4 tbsps olive oil
Cook the spaghetti in water with kosher salt till it is al dente. (The pasta must not be overcooked or this dish flops). Drain the pasta and save a cup of the pasta water.
In a large pan, roast the ground black pepper over a medium flame for a few seconds. Add the 4 tbsps olive oil and about 1/3 cup of pasta water. Mix well. Now add the cooked pasta to the pepper/oil/water sauce, mixing well so that each strand of pasta is coated with the black pepper. Add the grated cheese and toss to ensure that the cheese coats the pasta strands, adding pasta water as needed to ensure an even distribution. Turn off flame, cover the dish and after 5 minutes, toss the pasta one more time.
Serve hot, with a bit of grated cheese on top.
PS. I’ve seen recipes with butter. Friends have mentioned adding cream sauce. Some double the amount of pepper. I asked a colleague from Rome today what the right way to prepare the dish was. Her answer? A good Cacio e Pepe is cooked right with just pepper, pasta, cheese and olive oil.
If you have eaten this dish or have made it, we would love to hear about your experiences. Please do drop us a line.
To read about our tastings in Rome and New York, click here: