Cacio e Pepe is an Italian term for ‘Cheese and Pepper‘. This is what the Cacio e Pepe recipe is about, anyway. It is a delicious roman meal that is the advanced version of spaghetti with a creamy sauce.
It is an elegant pasta recipe that is solely based on your way of cooking and preparing the main cheese sauce. With the least amount of ingredients to cook with, this fancy recipe comes with its own tactics.
Spaghetti is a spicy version and the Cacio e Pepe is the epitome of a milky and cheesy version of the pasta. All we need is to properly follow some critical steps and measures, and our finger-licking Cacio e Pepe will be ready in no time.
The key ingredients in this simple recipe are freshly ground pepper and pre-grated cheese with pasta cooking water, and your stylish Cacio e Pepe recipe is ready.
So, without further ado, let’s start off with our small yet crucial list of ingredients to make the best Cacio e Pepe recipe ever!
1. Cacio e Pepe Recipe
There are a few ingredients that may not be used in the traditional recipe of Cacio e Pepe but it is a great option to use.
Since they enhance the creaminess of the pasta and also help in perfecting the cheese sauce, it is best to use them in your recipe.
- Dried Pasta – 600 g ( Bucatini, Tonarelli or Spaghetti )
- Grounded Black Pepper – 2 tbsp
- Olive Oil ( Extra Virgin Olive Oil )
- Butter – 2tbsp ( Unsalted )
- Pecorino Romano Cheese – 500 g ( Finely Grated )
- Parmesan or Grana Padano Cheese – 200 g ( Finely Grated )
- Kosher Salt
- Water – 3 Litre
- Reserved Pasta Water
This recipe is one of the easiest ones which tastes so delicious simultaneously. However, the recipe entirely depends on the success of the cheese sauce we’ll prepare.
It is a frequent thing to get a broken sauce out of the dried cheese of pecorino romano. Since it is an old cheese, it is often difficult to turn it into a glossy sauce as the cheese melts.
We’ll get to the sauce part quickly, so let’s start with cooking the pasta first!
1.2 Cook Pasta for Cacio e Pepe
Take a large pot and add 2.5 Litre water and heat it under medium heat. You may also turn it into high heat slowly to bring it to boiling sooner.
Once the water has been heated enough, add 1 and a half tablespoons of kosher salt. Stirring occasionally helps to mix it well with the heated water.
Once your boiling salted water is ready, add the pasta directly to the pot and let it cook for a few minutes. You may use tongs to press the spaghetti pasta down into the water if it sticks out.
Cooking the pasta for some time is necessary, since we require a good amount of pasta water for the recipe later on, during the sauce making.
If you think the water amount is more than the pasta, then proceed to take out some reserved pasta water and keep it aside.
It is better to cook the pasta with less water than the actual, because it increases the starch in the pasta, which will help the cheese sauce to stick to it, later on.
So, after the pasta water is already at hand, reduce the cooking water as much as possible.
Once the spaghetti is cooked and softened, drain pasta with a strainer or simply keep it stored in a colander for the time being, until the other sections of the recipe are ready.
Please note that the pasta must be added to the sauce as soon as it is drained, so a bit of multi-tasking is required in its recipe.
It is a great option to cook the pasta on one side and prepare the sauce on the other stove. That makes the recipe quicker, more efficient, and more delicious at the same time.
1.3 Preparing the Sauce
Take another large pan and sprinkle 2 tsp Olive Oil, and spread it equally around the bottom of the pan. Keep the low heat until the oil warms up a little bit.
Then add half of the butter and let it around the pan, you may use a wooden spoon to melt it faster. Add ground black pepper right after the butter and mix them together.
The cooking of butter and pepper together brings a fine aroma as long as you mix it. Turn the stove to high heat and cook it for 2-3 minutes.
Once the butter pepper is cooked, add pasta water to the pan. Add 2 cups at first and store them well together.
You may decide on how much pepper should you use in this recipe according to your preferences. Cook it with pasta water for 3-4 minutes, then you may add more pasta water to another cup or two.
Since it is the process to thicken the sauce, add pasta water just enough or it will become too plain for taste.
Once it is well-cooked with aroma, add the cooked pasta over the pan of sauce. It is recommended to stir the current mixture faster and with pressure, it will thicken the sauce easier.
Please be patient and keep on this process for 4-5 minutes, at least. While you’re mixing the pasta with the sauce, add the remaining butter as well, to grease up the pasta if it is dry.
Cacio e Pepe is controversially known for this moment in the recipe. Once you’ve spent 5 minutes cooking the pasta with sauce under medium-high heat, remove the pan from the heat.
With no heat on the pan, keep tossing the pasta with tongs as you mix the sauce. Meanwhile, add 350-400 g Pecorino Romano Cheese, then toss and mix the pasta strenuously.
Keep doing it for a few minutes until the cheese starts sticking to the pasta perfectly. If it is getting dry, add a little olive oil and mix them again.
Finally, after cooking for 3-4 minutes, add another layer of remaining pasta and top it with 150 g Parmesan or Grana Padano Cheese.
Vigorously mix the pasta with the cheese and oil until everything blends well to form a creamy texture.
The starch will help the parmesan and pecorino cheese to stick to the pasta while keeping the flavour of this fancy dish. The cooking time of this dish is barely 15 minutes, so try it out soon.
After blending the sauce and pasta with cheese for a sufficient time, serve immediately on a clean plate of Cacio e Pepe.
Garnish the exquisite dish with more black pepper on top and pecorino cheese on one side.
Make sure to grate your own cheese at home, since the purchased version is often thicker and will not blend well with the sauce.
Do not forget to try this outstanding and creamy Cacio e Pepe dish at home. It is one of the best and easiest recipes to make ever. Remember to rate Cacio e Pepe and tell us how it turned out for you.
2. Cooking Tips for Cacio e Pepe
- Adding butter even if it is not a traditional ingredient for the recipe, is still a lot helpful. It is already difficult to extract the gooeyness from the dried cheese, so adding butter pushes the cheese to melt more quicker and more smoothly. Many other related recipes use butter as an enhancer to balance out the consistency and the blending capacity of the respective recipes.
- It is best to ground your own black pepper at home, instead of using the store’s black pepper. You can start from the very beginning by making black pepper powder from peppercorns.Fry the peppercorns in a large pan and heat it for some time under medium heat. When aromatic smoke arises, transfer the peppercorns to a grinding bowl. Grind the recently fried peppercorns and make it complete powder pepper.
Once again, cook the powdered pepper on the pan under low-medium heat for a few minutes. Then store it in an airtight jar or container and your homemade ground black pepper is ready to be used for the recipe.
- Always use a large pot or a saute pan to cook the pasta. Since the surface area is spacious, it allows the spaghetti pasta to soften and cook easily in no time. Please make sure to cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.
- Make sure to cook the sauce and the pasta under medium-high heat, always. Avoid over-cooking both of them in any case. Never stop actively mixing the pasta and sauce while blending.If the sauce is overheated, it will automatically stick to the base of the pan rather than to the pasta. It may become greasy with lumps at the bottom of the pan. Once these lumps start forming, there will be no more saving the recipe.
Even adding butter or olive oil would not help, since it will only become greasy and stuck to the pan. So, it is always best to completely avoid this accident from the start. Take proper measures and cook everything slowly and steadily under medium heat.
Cacio e Pepe is an outstanding spaghetti dish with a pretty clever improvisation with cheese. Along with the strong essence of pepper, it just can’t be better.
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Being one of the most beloved Roman recipes, it is also an all-time favourite. So, do not miss out on this fascinating meal of happiness, especially if you’re a pasta and cheese lover.
Let us know in the comments below how your Cacio e Pepe turned out!