Cacio e Pepe is a really simple pasta dish and a great example of creating a sauce from the pasta water, a little butter, cheese and pepper. Think of it as a peppery Italian mac & cheese. It’s pretty much as quick to make as the one in the “blue box”, and oh so much better. And it was the first dinner I cooked after I lugged that suitcase back home, instantly transporting this very tired and jet lagged gal back to the trattorias of Rome.
Cacio e Pepe
Makes 2 servings, or 1 with leftovers which make a great base for Sunday morning’s fritatta!
Since there are very few ingredients here, freshly grating the cheese and freshly grinding the pepper really does make a difference, both in quantity and flavor. Freshly grated cheese is fluffier, so volume is different from pre-grated.
6 ounces sturdy long pasta like linguine, bucatini or spaghetti rigate (spaghetti with ridges)
2 TBSP butter
½ cup freshly grated grana padano or parmigiana (about 1 ounce or so)
¼ cup freshly grated pecorino (about ½ ounce or so)
¾ tsp freshly grated pepper
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 tsp lemon zest
About 1/3 cup pasta water
Cook the pasta to al dente in well-salted boiling water. When the pasta is almost done, melt the butter and sauté the pepper in it for about a minute. Add in about 1/3 cup of the pasta water and the ½ cup of grana padano or parmigiana. Add the pasta and toss over medium low heat until the pasta is well coated and the sauce has thickened (there shouldn’t be a lot of liquid left when it is ready.) Turn off the heat, add the pecorino, lemon zest and parsley and toss well. Serve immediately and enjoy mac & cheese, ala Italiano! Calories: approximately 475 per serving.