Ode to Rome: Pasta Cacio e Pepe By Foodie’s Chef Laura Brennan
March 20, 2020
This is a quick and simple and delicious pasta dish from Rome. Long strands of pasta are coated with a cheese & butter sauce. Traditionally made with only sheep’s milk pecorino cheese; I have added a bit of Parmigiana to soothe the American palate. It adds a bit of sweetness to temper the tang of the pecorino. And - this recipe uses very few ingredients and can be made in one pot!
- Prep: 20 mins
- Cook: 20 mins
- Yields: 3
8 ounces dry ‘long-strand’ pasta like spaghetti, linguini or bucatini
3 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
2 ounces Parmigiana cheese, grated*
3 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, grated*
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 tablespoons kosher salt (plus more to taste)
3-4 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Combine the grated cheeses. (Reserve ½ cup for sprinkling on top of the finished dish.)
Chop the parsley. Grind the black pepper. Have the butter at room temp.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt to boiling pasta water. Add pasta and stir. Cook pasta to a bit firmer in texture than the usual ‘al dente’. Stop cooking a couple of minutes before al dente, (you will have to taste the pasta to determine this stage of doneness.)
Before draining, reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water. (Dip a handled-Pyrex heat-proof glass measuring cup into the pot. A handled coffee mug will equally work.)
Drain the pasta in a colander and let it sit in the sink while you… QUICKLY put the pot back on the stove over very low heat. Add the softened butter to the pot along with ¼ cup (approximately) of the reserved pasta cooking water and 1 ½ teaspoons of the black pepper. Swirl to melt the butter. (The fragrance of the black pepper released into the liquid should be intoxicating!)
Add all the cooked pasta back to the pot. Alternate sprinkling the pasta with the grated cheeses and tablespoons of reserved pasta-cooking water. Use your tongs to twirl, combine and emulsify the cheeses into a sauce. Add the water bit-by-bit to control the thickness of the sauce. You will probably NOT use all of the hot water. When satisfied with the texture and creaminess of the sauce, add the chopped parsley.
Sprinkle the reserved grated cheese and black pepper on top.
* Some Cooking-Technique Notes
a.) The cooked pasta is coated with a quick sauce made with the finely grated cheeses, butter and a bit of the reserved pasta cooking water. Use a micro plane grater to grate the cheese, if you have one. It will yield ‘airy & fluffy’ grated cheese, which will melt quickly, completely and without lumps. If you don’t have a micro plane, use the smallest hole on a box grater.
b.) The concept of this sauce is very straightforward: Using some reserved, starchy pasta-cooking water, the cheeses and butter quickly emulsify together to create an unctuous sauce.
c.) Use a pair on tongs to twirl the cooked pasta and mix into the grated cheeses and butter.
d.) Use a peppermill to grind FRESH CRACKED black pepper.
‘PEPE’ is the other word in the title of the dish.…enough said.