Don’t be fooled by some pictures of Cacio e Pepe pictures on Instagram. They look awesome, but they don’t seem to be traditional. Some of them look like a ton of butter is in the dish, or cream cheese was added. I first had Cacio e Pepe when I was in Rome this past year. ‘Cacio e Pepe’ for cheese and pepper, and it’s known by some in the states as “Italian mac and cheese for adults”. I like that it’s only a few ingredients – pepper, pasta, pasta water, romano cheese. I don’t use any butter, but I do use olive oil in the beginning to soak the pepper in it. It’s not as easy to make as some think. You have to make sure you have starchy water, and that you never add the cheese over heat (it will clump together). The picture below is ‘pici’ homemade pasta that I made. Fresh pasta is always good, but this dish is better with dry-store bought pasta due to the starch.
- Dry Spaghetti or Homemade Pasta (see homemade pasta recipe)
- 2 Tablespoons Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1.5 Cups Pasta Water
- 3/4 Cup Romano Cheese
- Cook the spaghetti in as little water as possible (so that it covers the pasta by about half an inch). This builds up the starch in the water which you will need to create a creamy sauce.
- While the pasta is cooking, add 1 TBS of the pepper in a non stick sauce pan and toast for 5 minutes on medium heat.
- Add 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil to the pepper and let it soak, move heat to lowest possible (there should only be 3-5 minutes left for the pasta)
- Once pasta is al dente, turn the heat on the sauce pan back up to medium, then take 1 Cup of the pasta water and add to the pan. It should bubble/sizzle
- Add the pasta to the pan and start mixing it around for 1 minute. This releases the starch and will create a creamy sauce.
- Move the pan away from heat and add half the cheese. Mix again for 1 minute.
- With the pan still off the heat, add the remaining pepper, water, and cheese and mix then serve. The sauce should be creamy at this point.