Ricetta (Recipe): Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe, Felice, Testaccio, Roma

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe, Felice, Testaccio, Roma

A classic - and arguably the most famous - recipe from Rome (originating in my neighborhood of Testaccio). Cacio e Pepe literally means “Cheese and Pepper” in Roman slang. Besides the spaghetti, the only two other major ingredients in this simple and historic dish are cheese and black pepper. While it sounds simple, there are specific timely steps to take and temperatures to maintain, in order for the true Cacio e Pepe creaminess and balanced flavors to shine.

 

INGREDIENTS:

For 2 people
225 grams for Barilla or DeCecco brand spaghetti pasta
100 grams (about 2 cups) of finely grated imported Pecorino Romano cheese
1 tablespoon of whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon of salt

PREPARATION:

  • Put enough water in a pan to cover the spaghetti once you’re ready to cook them (don’t use too much water as we are looking to use the pasta-water in the cooking process, and need it to be starchy)

  • Add salt to the boiling water

  • Once the water boils, drop the spaghetti in the water and set the timer to 1 minute LESS than the Al Dente cooking time mentioned on the box (this is because the spaghetti will finish cooking later on in the process, so we don’t want it to overcook)

  • While the pasta is boiling away, crush all of the peppercorns in a mortar until it is coarsely but evenly crushed. Take care to not have BIG pieces of pepper, or else the dish’s flavor will not be balanced. Medium to medium-fine chop is perfect

  • While the pasta is boiling, grab a ladleful of boiling pasta water and SLOWLY pour it into a small bowl where you will have put the grated Pecorino Romano. Use a wooden spoon to gently turn the cheese so it evenly melts with the boiling water. Add as much boiling pasta water as needed to attain a creamy melted cheese liquid (about the consistency of heavy whipping cream). Set aside

  • While the pasta is cooking, heat up a non-stick 12 inch pan to medium-high temperature and warm up the crushed pepper in it. Constantly move the pepper around with a wooden spatula so it roasts evenly on all sides (about 1 minute)

  • Mix the crushed/roasted black pepper into the cheese sauce so that the cheese sauce is evenly speckled. Pour the peppered cheese sauce back into the non-stick pan and set to medium heat

  • By now, the pasta is ready to take out of the water (Remember! 1 minute EARLIER than the Al Dente setting on the box). Don’t drain the water! Instead, use tongs to grab the spaghetti from the water and put the spaghetti directly into the 12 inch non-stick pan with the peppered cheese sauce. (Its ok to have excess pasta water in the pan, it adds to the dance creaminess of the sauce)

  • Evenly mix the spaghetti into the peppered cheese sauce in the pan, taking care to coat it all evenly and perfectly. If the sauce dries up too much (it should be very moist), add small quantities of the hot pasta water to the pan

  • Continue to finish cooking the spaghetti in the Cacio e Pepe sauce for about 1-2 minutes, or until the pasta is a perfect Al Dente and the sauce is perfect coating the spaghetti

  • Turn off the heat and use tongs to serve the Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe onto pasta dishes. You may add even more fresh graded Pecorino Romano cheese as a garnish on top, if you like

  • Buon Appetito!

Pecorino Romano cheese, mixed with black pepper corns, being melted with boiling pasta water to form Cacio e Pepe pasta sauce - DivoraRoma with Chef Silvia Portentoso, Roma

Pecorino Romano cheese, mixed with black pepper corns, being melted with boiling pasta water to form Cacio e Pepe pasta sauce - DivoraRoma with Chef Silvia Portentoso, Roma