Friday, February 7, 2014

Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and Pepper Pasta) by Colleen

Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and Pepper Pasta)

Note from B:  Colleen sent me this recipe last year, and we finally made it last night -- so easy! ---so I took photos --- and it was just like we remembered it tasting when we tried it last September in Rome based on Colleen's recommendation.

Okay, so this is a dish that is reaching critical mass all of sudden in our area. I had never heard of it before we went to Rome and now I'm seeing it everywhere.

So I'm in the process of making it tonight but it is one of those maddening recipes that is very simple: pasta, cheese, pepper, olive oil, except NO ONE can agree on amounts or whether you should also include butter with the olive oil when you toast the cracked pepper and quantities and types of cheese. Which means that whatever you can make work is probably just fine. Every Italian Nonni probably had her own version.

Have you had this dish?

We had it at the restaurant in Rome that we went to with our friends. Among other things. But the Cacio e Pepe was really really good.

  ---Colleen


Cacio e Pepe  (Cheese and Pepper Pasta)

3 teaspoons freshly cracked pepper (use less if you don't want it really spicy - see note*)
1- 1 1/2 cups pecorino romano (finely grated)
1/2 cup grana padana or Parmesan, grated (Some recipes reverse the quantities of cheese, favoring the Parmesan over the pecorino. I don't think it much matters. Use what you have!)
3 Tablespoons of olive oil
3 Tablespoons of butter
1 1b box of pasta (spaghetti, bucatini, thin linguine)

Saute the cracked pepper in the olive oil and butter for a few minutes in a large saute/skillet pan. Set aside.

Heavily salt the water and bring to boil. Cook the pasta to just al dente - don't over cook because you will still be cooking the pasta in the sauce.
Remove the pasta from the water and toss with the pepper and oil. You don't need to drain. Just get tongs and lift it out and add directly to the pan.

Add in the cheeses and toss, ladling in hot pasta water from the pot as needed make the sauce creamy.

You may need to add quite a a bit of water - the more cheese you use, the more water you'll need. (Some recipes use very little cheese, others quite a bit. It seems to be all down to personal preference.)

Serve immediately. Should serve 4.

*Note: With this amount of pepper, the dish is quite spicy. I liked it, but you could easily saute half the amount of pepper, and serve the rest of the cracked pepper at the table for people to season the dish to individual taste.

You might want to solicit variations from other FE folks. Like I said before, there are as many versions of this as there are grandmothers in Italy.

  ---Colleen

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