Cacio e Pepe
- Half pound of dried spaghetti
- 1 tbsp fresh ground pepper*
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter (Or half butter, half olive oil for more flavor complexity)
- half cup pecorino†
- half cup Parmigiano-Reggiano†
*This is normal for a half pound of pasta. All the Cacio e Pepe we had in Rome was VERY peppery. If this seems like too much, you can always start with less and add more later. Please use whole peppercorns. I buy a multi-color blend but mostly black. Use a pepper grinder or motar to smash them. Store bought pre-ground pepper is stale like old man farts trapped in an adult diaper.
†Using only pecorino-romano and no Parmesan is more traditional. I like to do a blend of mostly Pecorino with some parmigiano-Reggiano for complexity. Whatever cheese(s) you use, buy the real stuff and grate it yourself. The pre-grated Kraft in a can bullshit has anti-caking agents in it and will ruin your sauce. Pecorino-Romano is made with sheeps milk and can be a bit gamey to most Americans. You are welcome to use parmesan cheese only if you wish, but it will taste more like Alfredo sauce. In fact, you can make extremely authentic Alfredo sauce with this recipe if you triple the butter and only use a dusting of pepper at the very end.
Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoons salt. Cook the pasta al dente. Save a cup of the startchy pasta water before straining the pasta out.
Add the freshly ground black to a large sauté pan set over medium heat and toast until fragrant, 45 seconds to 1 minute. Add the butter/oil until the butter melts and bubbles. Swirl the sauce regularly so that the olive oil and butter combine. Pour in half the water, let it bubble, and stir to mix with the butter/oil and pepper.
Add the pasta to the pan and toss to combine with the sauce. On low heat add the cheese slowly while tossing or stirring so that the cheese melts evenly and makes a sauce with the water/butter/oil. Add the rest of the pasta water and mix until creamy.
The Pecorino region of Italy makes wonderful white wines that pair perfectly with this dish. In the photo below I served my cacio e pepe with a Pecorino white, oven baked halibut, and my caesar salad.