You need 4 ingredients, only 4 ingredients, for this scrumptious recipe. Its name is Cacio e Pepe, which means cheese and pepper. It is an authentic dish from Lazio that you can make wherever you are. You just have to look for the right ingredients, and it will turn out perfectly.
Cooking cacio e pepe is much more than grating cheese on pasta; a special method is required to make a rich cream which evenly coats the pasta. Read on, and you will find out everything you need to know about this dish.
What goes into cacio e pepe?
It is rich in coarsely ground pepper, so you must love pepper if you want to fully enjoy this dish.
The perfect chemical reaction between the water and the protein of the cheese makes the sauce creamy and smooth, but the combination of the flavors is the real secret for a very appetizing dish. Freshly crushed peppercorns release all their sharp flavor when slightly toasted in a skillet. The pasta must be tossed slowly until evenly coated.
The recipe calls for medium-aged Pecorino cheese, but in Italy cacio is a cheese that can be grated. If you can’t find Pecorino where you live, you may replace it with Parmigiano Reggiano. It won’t be the authentic cacio e pepe, but it will still be delicious.
What pasta is good for cacio e pepe?
Long wheat durum pasta, such as spaghetti, or bucatini, goes best with this dish. I prefer linguine.
Short pasta, like macaroni or rigatoni, may be paired with it as well. The original recipe calls for homemade wheat pasta called tonnarelli, which is made with flour (type 0 or 1) and eggs. Tonnarelli, the Roman name, resembles spaghetti alla chitarra in shape and taste.
A few tricks to make a perfect cacio e pepe:
- Do not use too much water to cook the pasta because the starch itself makes the sauce smooth and creamy;
- The cheese provides enough fat; therefore, no extra oil is needed;
- Use only the hot pasta cooking liquid, which contains the starch that makes the cream silky and smooth without any clumps;
- Drain the pasta before it is finished cooking. Finish cooking it in the skillet with the ground toasted peppercorns so that the spaghetti will absorb the full taste.
- 1 lb of long pasta, fresh Spaghetti alla Chitarra; Dry version by Barilla or De Cecco spaghetti (454g)
- 1 cup of Pecorino Romano grated (200g)
- 2-3 tbsp Peppercorns, coarsely grated
- Bring the water to a rolling boil, and then add a tablespoon of salt. Do not use much water to cook the spaghetti because you have to reserve as much starch as you can in order to make your space silky and creamy. Fill the stockpot halfway full (normally you would fill it 3/4);
- Cook the spaghetti according to the instructions on the package. Stir occasionally so the pasta doesn’t stick together;
- Grate the Pecorino cheese and coarsely grate the peppercorns;
- Take half of the crushed peppercorns and toast them over medium-low heat. Stir the peppercorns with a wooden spoon so they don’t burn;
- Cooking the pasta, drain it and save the pasta water. Pour the pasta into the skillet with the peppercorns and go on cooking it with a scoop of the pasta water tossing it with tongs until done;
- Prepare the sauce with the Pecorino just before serving to keep it silky and smooth;
- Prepare the following sauce with the Pecorino cheese just before serving in order to keep it silky and smooth. Pour half of the grated Pecorino cheese into a bowl, add about a scoop of pasta cooking liquid and whisk it quickly until it is as white as whipped cream. Add another scoop of pasta cooking liquid and the remaining Pecorino. Whisk it vigorously until the cheese has completely melted and is smooth. If the cream gets too thick, add a splash of water, but be careful; it must not be too liquidy. The temperature of the water will melt the cheese. The more mature the Pecorino is, the hotter the water must be;
- If the Pecorino sauce isn’t hot enough, put it in the skillet with the cooked pasta for a few minutes. The sauce and pasta should be at the same temperature;
- When the pasta is done, remove the skillet from the heat and add the Pecorino sauce. Toss the pasta with tongs until it is evenly coated;
- Place the pasta in serving bowls and garnish each with some more freshly grated Pecorino cheese and black pepper.
Can you reheat cacio e pepe?
No, you can’t. Cacio e pepe must be prepared and eaten right away. It cannot be stored in the fridge, so prepare the right serving for each person.