RISE & SHINE KAUT43 OKC
Classically Roman, incredibly easy to make, and fun to say, this is Cacio e Pepe.
Cacio meaning cheese, and for these purposes Pecorino-Romano cheese, and Pepe meaning pepper… or crushed black peppercorns. Of course, there is the pasta, and for that, a nice fat spaghetti or bucatini and even linguini are perfect for this dish.
Now as they say, and it applies to Cacio e Pepe, “The secret is in the sauce!”. This is one of those pasta recipes, and you have heard me talk about doing this before, where we utilize the pasta cooking water. That flavored, salted, starchy water, is what is going to help us make this delicious pasta dish. It takes a little skill and patience, and when you have that you will make a perfect sauce for this dish.
Just because it’s called cacio e pepe does not necessarily mean you have to just keep it pasta cheese, and black pepper. Let your taste buds and wants be your director when it comes to this production as I did by adding browned Oyster Mushrooms and Thyme to mine. The addition of proteins like crispy pancetta or thinly sliced beef would be nice. Herbs and spices form fresh basil, to red chili flakes, or even saffron would be a nice addition. Classically it is pasta, cheese, and back pepper… what you do after that is totally up to you!
Ingredients: For 2 good eaters, 3 is usuing as a side.
8 ounces pasta (spaghetti, linguini, or bucatini)
4 tablespoons butter (you may substitute olive oil)
1-2 teaspoons freshly crushed/smashes/whacked black peppercorn
1 1/2 cups finely grated Pecorino-Romano cheese (don’t use that pre-grated stuff)
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Two things: Don’t use as much water to cook the pasta as you normally would. We’re looking for nice starchy water, so back off on the amount that you would typically use to cook pasta … just enough to cook. Also, make sure it is well salted, Pasta absorbs the salt from the water so howler weak or overly salted your water is, that is what your pasta will be.
Add the [pasta to the water and begin to slowly boil. In a late sauté pan add the butter or olive oil and bring to heat. In a small plastic “baggie” begin to crush whole black peppercorn. Use a meat mallet, rolling pin, heavy full can. Measure out 1-2 teaspoons (depends on how peppery you like your food) and add to the melted butter. Begin to gently fry the pepper for around 3 minutes. If using butter cook gently as to not brown the butter.
Gently add 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water to the pan. Yes, it will splatter and bubble… just be careful. Mix and remove from the heat.
When the pasta is cooked al dente, or “to the tooth”, drain the pasta but RESERVE 1/2 CUP or more for the pasta sauce. Let the pasta drain and cool slightly.
With the pan back on the heat add half of the freshly and finely grated pecorino cheese to the saucepan and heat slowly. Do not simmer. Mix the cheese into the pasta water a bit at a time to make the sauce. Too much cheese in the hot water and you will get clumps of melted cheese swimming in pepper water. NO! Steady as she goes!
Once the sauce is slightly thickened add the cooked pasta. Toss the pasta with the sauce using tongs. Add the second half of the cheese, and carefully add a little bit of the reserved pasta water and continue tossing until the pasta is evenly coated and the sauce thickened.
Serve up in individual pasta bowls or one large pasta bowl for family style. OF COURSE, you can add more cheese on top… I’d be mad if you didn’t! Enjoy!