I first had this tasty pasta at a trattoria in Trastevere in Rome. It was utterly simple, but so delicious. Cacio e Pepe literally means “cheese and pepper” so if you are a fan of those, you will love this dish. The heat melts the cheese and the addition of some of the cooking water helps to emulsify it into a creamy sauce that coats and clings to the pasta.
CACIO E PEPE PASTA
- 1 ½ TBSP Black Pepper coarsely ground
- ¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 pound Bucatini
- ½ Cup Pecorino Romano Cheese grated
- ½ Cup Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese grated
- Bring a large pot of water to boil to cook the pasta. When boiling, add 1 TBSP salt and the pasta and cook according to the package directions.
- While the pasta is cooking, warm the pepper in the oil over low heat in a saute pan large enough to accommodate the cooked pasta.
- When the pasta is ready, increase the heat on the oil to medium-high.
- Working quickly, drain the pasta (reserving a cup of the water) and add to the oil and pepper.
- Add a ladle full (1/2 cup) of pasta water and the cheese and stir vigorously until it starts to become creamy.
- If it seems a little stiff, add a bit more pasta water and continue to stir until the pasta is well coated.
- Serve immediately with extra grated cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Make sure to use dried pasta, as fresh does not create enough starch in the water which helps emulsify the sauce.
- You may also use spaghetti, but I prefer Bucatini as it gives off more starch and has a nice toothsome bite.
- Pop your serving bowls in a warm oven while you prepare the pasta. It will keep the pasta warm for every last bite.
- Cacio e Pepe traditionally only has Pecorino Romano, but I like the combination of half Parmigiano Reggiano.
- If you can find it (and you are really a fan of pepper), try using Pecorino Pepato. It is a Pecorino with black peppercorns and very Roman.
- A real Roman would not mix seafood and cheese, but I’m not Roman, so I frequently add grilled or sautéed shrimp to make it a complete meal. Grilled chicken would work well, too.