Cacio E Pepe literally translated means “cheese and pepper”. Traditionally, this Italian dish uses freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan, and loads of freshly-cracked black peppercorns for the pepper. We love whipping up this recipe for something simple and delicious! Of course, you could make a delicious meal simply by tossing some pasta with butter and Parmesan. But the secret is all in this cooking…
- Pasta: We recommend bucatini, spaghetti, or linguine.
- Pecorino or Parmesan: A good, aged Pecorino cheese is traditional, but Parmesan (or a blend of the two) works well also. MUST use freshly-grated cheese for this dish. The pre-grated stuff in the refrigerated section won’t melt well into this sauce, and will instead make it all clumpy and weird. Trust me.
- Freshly-cracked black pepper
- Butter: we use butter in the sauce for flavor, but you could also sub in olive oil if you prefer.
- Cook your pasta. In a large stockpot full of generously-salted water , boil your pasta until it just barely al dente. You want to avoid over-cooking the pasta here since it will cook a bit more in the pan with the sauce.
- Make your sauce. Multitasking! At about the same time that you add the pasta to the boiling water, add your butter to a large sauté pan (large enough to hold the pasta) and melt over medium-heat. Then add in your black pepper and let it cook for another minute or so. Then very carefully, scoop out about 1/2 cup of the starchy hot pasta water and add it to the butter mixture, which will immediately bubble up. Give it a good whisk to combine. Then remove pan from heat, wait for 3 minutes, add in the grated cheese, and whisk quickly until completely combined.
- Combine the pasta and the sauce. Then, once the pasta and sauce are ready to go, reserve an extra 1/2 cup of starchy pasta water from the stockpot and set it aside. Strain your pasta completely, and let it rest for 2-3 minutes to cool off a tiny bit. Then add half of your pasta to the sauce, give it a good toss, add the remaining, and toss until combined. The heat of the pasta will help to melt the cheese and form that silky, luxurious sauce. That said — if the sauce starts to look a little dry, don’t hesitate to add in a splash or two of that reserved starchy pasta water.
- Serve and enjoy! I recommend topping yours with a little extra cheese and pepper.