Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Cacio e Pepe

A few years ago, my family and I spent a summer traveling Europe. Though we were in Rome for only one week, the city stole my heart. I loved the dichotomy between the Roman ruins and the young vibrant culture. And, I especially loved the trattorias filled with homemade pastas, fried artichokes, pizza, and espresso granita. 
Cacio e Pepe, or spaghetti with pecorino and pepper,  is a Roman dish that I became obsessed with, and I pretty much ordered it anytime I saw it on a menu. Despite its humble ingredients, the dish is hard to find here in the US. 

When I am longing for a dinner overlooking the Tiber and the Forum or a warm walk through the Piazza Navona, I will instead reach for this pasta dish. It's quick and easy to pull together, so it's perfect for a weeknight dinner. It will taste almost as good as the pasta I had in Rome, as long as you make sure to follow these basic instructions!

Cacio e Pepe

From Patricia Wells
Serves 4 

3 tablespoons coarse, freshly ground black pepper, preferably Tellicherry peppercorns
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons salted butter
3 tablespoons sea salt
1 lb spaghetti
3/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for garnishing
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Regiiano cheese, plus extra for servicng

Place the pepper in a large skillet over medium heat and toast it, shaking the pan, until fragrant about 30 seconds. 

Add the oil and the butter and stir until the butter is melted. Remove the pan from the heat.  

In a pasta pot, bring 8 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the salt and pasta, stirring to prevent the pasta from sticking. Cook until tender but firm to the bite. Remove the pasta pot from the heat. Drain the pasta, shaking to reserve some of the excess water. Reserve some of the cooking water for the sauce.

Return the skillet to the heat. Add about 4 tablespoons of the pasta water to the oil mixture and stir to blend. Add the pasta and toss until it is evenly coated.

Add the cheeses and toss until the pasta is evenly coated. If the pasta is dry, add more pasta water. Serve immediately with additional grated cheeses.


  1. is it me or does three tablespoons of pepper seem excessive

    1. I promise it is not excessive! The dish is supposed to have a strong pepper and cheese flavor, hence the name cacio e pepe. If you dislike pepper, then I would suggest omitting the pepper.



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