Cacio E Pepe

Cacio e pepe sounds fancy, but is actually a simple pasta dish. It literally means “cheese and pepper.” If you love black pepper and noodles, this is the recipe for you. I love the strong flavor of the pepper, almost like eating spicy noodles with an earthy aftertaste. It’s a cheap and easy meal to put together. Keep in mind if you’re vegetarian that Parmesan cheese is not considered a vegetarian cheese option.

Recipes for this tend to vary a little, but both Epicurius and Bon Apetit have the same recipe. You can find it here.

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Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • 6 oz. pasta (such as egg tagliolini, bucatini, or spaghetti)
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed, divided
  • 1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3/4 cup finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino

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Some notes on the ingredients. I didn’t use two different types of cheese because I didn’t have any pecorino on hand. The different cheeses make for a better flavor, but not having fancy cheese on hand doesn’t make the dish impossible. Kosher salt adds a more robust flavor to balance the pepper, but sea salt or other salt works too. I used fettucine, but I usually prefer a thinner pasta.

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Instructions:

1) Boil a pot of water. Sprinkle in some salt. Add the pasta and cook al dente as directed on the box.

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2) Drain the pasta, but do not drain all of the water. Reserve 3/4 cup of water.

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I find it easier to ladle the water into a measuring cup first before straining pasta. Also, I’ve been told it’s a cardinal sin to rinse your pasta.

3) Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pepper and cook, swirling the pan, until toasted, for about 1 minute.

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I used the same empty pot. Saves on clean up.

4) Add 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water to the pan. Bring to a simmer. Add the pasta and other Tbsp of butter.

5) 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 cheese melts, sauce coats the pasta.

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6) Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry. Transfer pasta to warm bowls and serve.

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It seemed dry with just the 1/2 cup. The sauce should seem loose.

The pepper in this dish really packs a punch. I know I may not have the best tolerance for spice, but I’d even say this gets close to spicy. I think this would be better with a thinner noodle, but I enjoy the idea of making pasta different than the usual preparation. A jar of pasta sauce and plain noodles don’t compare to this Italian comfort food.

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