This authentic cacio e pepe recipe relies on pantry staples of pasta, cheese, salt, pepper, and olive oil as well as a nifty cooking technique to put dinner on the table before you know it.
“There are many ways to make this classic dish of cacio e pepe and each Roman cook will show you some slightly different way to manipulate pasta, cheese, and pepper into a wonderful, warm bowl of comfort food.” So begins this seemingly unassuming recipe for authentic cacio e pepe. But when you peruse the instructions, that’s when the magic truly begins. The recipe relies on a method known as “risotto,” so called because it is like making a risotto. The pasta is cooked not in a pot of salted water but in a frying pan just large enough to contain the spaghetti. As the cooking water is absorbed by the pasta the liquid in the pan reduces and becomes the sauce. Nifty, eh? And that’s just in theory. Wait’ll you taste it.–Renee Schettler Rossi
Cacio e Pepe
- Quick Glance
- 25 M
- 25 M
- Serves 2 to 4
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 11 1/2 ounces (320 grams) fresh tonnarelli or dried spaghetti
- Generous pinch salt
- 4 1/4 to 5 cups (34 to 41 fluid ounces) boiling water or exceptionally hot tap water
- 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) Cacio de Roma, finely grated (ideally the cheese should be the semi-soft sheep’s cheese from Lazio called Cacio de Roma, but if this is hard to find use pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano instead)
- 1. Grab your largest saucepan (you want it to be around 12 inches or 30 centimeters in diameter or large enough for the spaghetti to lie in a single layer) and place it over medium heat. Add the oil and pepper and heat until you can smell the heady spice of the pepper, about 2 minutes.
- 2. Add the spaghetti to the pan along with the salt and about 2 cups (16 fluid ounces) water. You’ll want to watch out as the water may sputter when added to the hot oil. Add the remaining 2 1/4 cups (18 fluid ounces) hot water, little by little, as you would with risotto—that is to say, add a ladleful of hot water and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is almost but not completely absorbed before adding another ladleful of water. Repeat until the spaghetti is al dente and the water has reduced to a soupy consistency, 8 to 10 minutes. If the pasta starts to look dry, add a little more water but no more than a total of 5 cups (40 fluid ounces).
- 3. While the pasta is cooking, warm some bowls in a low oven. (Don’t ignore this step. It helps ensure the creamy sauce clinging to the pasta doesn’t turn to clumps.)
- 4. When the pasta is ready, remove the pan from the heat and add the cheese, a little at a time, stirring furiously and constantly, until a smooth and creamy sauce forms. Serve the cacio e pepe straight away in the hot bowls.