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Traditional Cacio e Pepe

A velvety classic Roman pasta

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword cheese, Italian, pasta
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 2

Ingredients

  • 1 handful spaghetti or bucatini
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns highest quality possible
  • 1 cup Pecorino Romano
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 tbsp Kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Bring a large stainless steel stockpot (best with a pasta insert) of water to a boil (medium heat setting is enough). Heavily salt the water. Once the salt has dissolved, add the pasta and cook until just barely al dente.

  2. After the pasta has been cooking for at least 5 minutes, heat a stainless steel fry pan or pot to medium and toss the black peppercorns to toast. Transfer peppercorns to a mortar and pestle and crush until you have large cracked pieces. Then, transfer pieces back to the fry pan and add a small ladleful of pasta water. Stir lightly while allowing some of the water to evaporate. You will be left with a reduced peppery, salty water base.

  3. Combine the two cheeses in a bowl (save a little for the end). Pour in around 1/2 cup of pasta water and stir vigorously until you form a chunky paste.

  4. When the pasta is done cooking, remove the pasta insert and transfer pasta to the fry pan. Reduce heat to low and toss vigorously with a large pronged fork (avoid metal to prevent scratching) or wooden chopsticks for a minute or two in the peppery water. Then, add your cheese mixture and continue to toss. Turn off the heat as soon as pasta is fully coated and sauce is smooth. Adjust with a tablespoon of additional pasta water at a time if necessary to achieve that "creamier" consistency.

  5. Twirl with the large fork or chopsticks to plate. Sprinkle each portion with some extra Pecorino Romano and/or Parmigiano and pepper to taste.

Recipe Notes

The most traditional cacio e pepe recipe calls for only Pecorino Romano. However, Parmigiano Reggiano lends a milder flavour and reduces the overly pungent flavour of the sheep cheese. Feel free to adjust proportions according to taste!

Try to use the minimum amount of water you think you need to boil the pasta. The starchier the pasta water, the easier it is to emulsify and combine with the cheese.