Cacio e Pepe Recipe - You’ll Run Wild For It
Whether you're seeking a quick and effortless weeknight dinner or looking to impress guests with a timeless culinary masterpiece, Cacio e Pepe is the ultimate choice for pasta lovers everywhere.
13 FEB - 2023
Ladies, it’s just cheese and pepper.
Cacio e Pepe, the deceptively simple Italian pasta dish, has been winning the hearts of food connoisseurs everywhere. Made with only a handful of ingredients - pasta, Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly ground black pepper, and starchy pasta water - this classic dish boasts a rich and indulgent flavor profile. The secret to its luxurious texture lies in the artful emulsification of cheese and pasta water, creating a silky and comforting sauce. Whether you're seeking a quick and effortless weeknight dinner or looking to impress guests with a timeless culinary masterpiece, Cacio e Pepe is the ultimate choice for pasta lovers everywhere.
I’d love to sit here and tell you that I am the type of person to order the most complex dish on the menu. I’m a chef, right? It’s practically in my DNA to do so. I’ll give myself some credit, I tend to venture out and try something new 99% of the time. But this one dish is something I can never turn down.
Cacio e pepe is Italy’s oldest pasta dish - but the modern day lady is all over it. Its literal translation is “cheese and pepper,” but to me, it is so much more than that. Sadly, it’s not something that words do justice. If I tell you that this cheese and pepper pasta has the Ponsonby ladies ordering it like it’s a fruity rosé, you probably won’t believe me. Let me take you on a pasta journey to delve into this modern day delicacy.
It might be the nostalgia that makes this dish so incredible. This is the adult version of buttered spaghetti - a time of fussy eaters and very boring food. When perfected, the Parmesan melts into the reserved pasta water and clings to the pasta, creating a creamy sauce. The black pepper is abundant and sharp, with an unforgettable, enticing bite that hits like a shot of pure serotonin.
This debate is not new to the food world. Overly complicated dishes can be far less enjoyable than simple meals done well. I have compiled a guide of everything you need to know about cacio e pepe, but be warned, I might fight you for it at your next dinner party.
Cacio e pepe doesn’t come with a ‘don’t try this at home’ warning, but Auckland has some of the best Cacio e pepe that New Zealand has to offer. There are two unbeatable restaurants on my list. My first and forever choice will be Baduzzi. This is a delicacy on the Baduzzi menu with lots of parmesan melted with black pepper to create a cheesy paste - mixed with delicious homemade linguini pasta.
For the full Baduzzi experience, match it with Moliterno cheese, which is pecorino with truffle veins - unbeatable.
The close runner up is Pici, keeping it simple and sophisticated (and juicy).
Once you’ve dined and danced your taste buds through the best Auckland has to offer, strap on tight, because this recipe is a detailed one. I have added one extra detail which isn’t always traditionally used. Butter is the culprit - traditionally no, but it’s so much better with it (sorry Nonna).
Flakey Salt (enough that your pasta water tastes like the sea, seriously)
180g Pasta (such as egg tagliolini, bucatini, or spaghetti)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed
1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper (take your peppercorns and crush them in a mortar and pestle)
¾ cup finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan (a microplane will be your new favourite kitchen tool)
⅓ cup finely grated Pecorino
Pick your weapons wisely - a pot big enough to fit your pasta and allow it to swim. Add enough salt that it tastes like the sea. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain, reserving ¾ cup pasta cooking water.
Meanwhile, melt 2/3 of your butter in a heavy based medium pan. Add pepper and cook, swirling the pan, until toasted, for about 1 minute.
Add ½ cup reserved pasta water to the pan and bring to a simmer. Add pasta and the remaining butter. Reduce heat to low and add Grana Padano, stirring and tossing with tongs until melted. Remove pan from heat; add Pecorino, stirring and tossing until the cheese melts, sauce coats the pasta, and pasta is al dente. Add more pasta water if the sauce seems dry. Transfer pasta to warm bowls and serve.
I won’t lie to you. If you imagine the taste of pepper, pasta and cheese, this is exactly what you can expect it to be like. But with hints of buttered spaghetti nostalgia, you’ll feel right at home.