Since we got back from Italy, I’ve noticed that I keep trying to sneak little Italian-y moments into my every day. Who says vacation has to end when you get home? Sometimes its just making a charcuterie and cheese board for lunch or it’s trying to recreate my favorite pasta dishes from Rome (more on that in a minute) or it’s just having a little bubbly Prosecco in the sunshine…although, in Italy I had a way better manicure. Woops!
Anyhoo, on one of these Italian-inspired moments, I decided I’d try to whip up cacio e pepe – which translates simply to cheese & pepper. It was a dish that friends recommended we try at Roma Spartia and it’s one of those meals that I’ve found myself thinking about over and over again because it was soooooooooooo good and unlike anything I’ve had before. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to make too!
For my first go, I thought I’d use Bon Appetit’s recipe. While the recipe was easy to follow and turned out incredibly close to the dish we had in Rome, the original recipe was for just 6 oz. of pasta, so I adjusted the recipe below so that it’s for a whole box of pasta because the leftovers for this are even better!
Cook Time: 25 Minutes
16 oz. pasta (such as egg tagliolini, bucatini, or spaghetti)
6 tbs unsalted butter, cubed, divided
2 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
2 cups finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan*
1 cup finely grated Pecorino*
*ensure the cheese is well-grated, either pre-bought or grated in a food-processor, otherwise it will not melt into the sauce
First, get water boiling to cook the pasta. Season the water with salt, then add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain, and reserve 2 cups of the pasta cooking water. You likely won’t need all of the reserved pasta water, but I added splashes here and there when the sauce seemed too dry, and it’s better to have more than not enough.
Meanwhile, melt 4 tbs of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pepper and cook, swirling the pan, until the pepper is toasted – about 1 minute.
Add 3/4 cup of the reserved pasta water to skillet and bring to a simmer. Add the pasta and the remaining 2 tbs of butter. Reduce the heat to low and add the Grana Padano cheese (I used Parmesan), stirring and tossing with tongs until melted. Remove pan from heat; add 3/4 cup of the Pecorino cheese, stirring and tossing until cheese melts, sauce coats the pasta, and the pasta is al dente. Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry. Transfer to pasta bowls, top with remaining Pecorino, and serve!