The holiday season is basically over, many of us will be tired, even exhausted, satisfied or even stuffed, and want to be done with cooking for a while. But we got to eat, so let’s start this new year with a quick and easy cacio e pepe. A recipe so simple, that you can make it in less than 20 minutes; and be very happy with the result. This recipe is foolproof and only requires 3 ingredients; actually 4 ingredients if you count the water as one.
A simple recipe, a simple picture and simply delicious. I know there are many recipes and ways to make the Cacio e Pepe, and I am telling you that his is the best way to make it. Foolproof guaranteed; I have made it many times, one recipe that is often my go to when I am back from work too late, don’t feel like spending time in the kitchen; and every time the dish comes out perfect.
What do you need for this Cacio e Pepe?
- cheese – cacio. For this recipe it’s Pecorino Romano. Try to buy the real one. When a recipe has only a few ingredients, you need the best you can get
- pepper – pepe. Black pepper. I hope you have a fresh pepper grinder because that brings out more flavor than when you use pepper
- pasta – long pasta work the best, like spaghetti, buccatini.
- water – first cold water, later hot pasta water.
How much of each ingredient?
- Ratio pasta : cheese : pepper
- 4 ounces pasta : 2 ounces finely grated Pecorino Romano : 1 tea spoon freshly ground black pepper
How to put the recipe together?
Here comes the quick fun and you’ll be amazed how easy this is.
- First of all, get all your ingredients ready before you start, because once your pasta is cooked to your desired tenderness, this dish comes together quickly.
- Grate Pecorino Romano fine
- Grind black pepper
- Second, warm your serving dish, may it be a plate or a bowl. Pasta cools down quickly, especially when you serve a pasta with very little sauce.
- Transfer cheese and pepper to a grinder or a food processor. I make this recipe just for two, so a food processor would be a little overkill; I am using the grinder part of my immersion mixer. Grind the two ingredients even finer than they are and add a tiny bit of water, cold water that is. Grind again until you have a paste, something like thick peanut butter, or cream cheese; a paste that will keep its form.
- Once your pasta is cooked, scoop out a cup of hot pasta water and set this aside, you will need that for the next step. Then drain the pasta in a colander and transfer pasts to a bowl. Transfer some of the cheese/pepper paste and the fun begins
- Now start stirring and add a little bit of hot pasta water and stir with a spoon. The past will dissolve into the water and start clinging to the pasta. Add more paste and pasta water until you have the desired combination of ‘sauce’ and pasta.
- The dish will become shine and creamy and you have not added any butter, cream or flour, just cheese, pepper and water.
You can sprinkle some cheese over the top and if you like some ground pepper.
One note of caution, when you add water to create the paste, add a tiny bit at a time. Same when you add the hot pasta water to the pasta and paste – a little at the time. You easily add too much and then you end up with a disappointing watered down Cacio e Pepe. Adding just a little bit at a time goes a long way and guarantees a perfect end-result.
I learned this method from Deb Perelman, may be known to you as Smitten Kitchen, who learned about it from a friend, who read about it from tour guide and Roman cooking expert Elizabeth Minchilli, who learned about it from an Italian restaurant’s chef’s mouth Flavio de Maio.
Quick and Easy Cacio e Pepe
- 4 ounces pasta buccatini, spaghetti
- 2 ounces Pecorino Romano finely grated
- 1 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
- Cook your pasta in boiling water according to directions on the packaging or until your desired tenderness.
- Transfer cheese and pepper to a grinder or a food processor. Grind the 2 ingredients even finer than they are and add a tiny bit of cold water. Grind again until you have a paste, something like thick peanut butter, or cream cheese; a paste that will keep its form. (NOTE 1 and 2)
- Once your pasta is cooked, scoop out a cup of hot pasta water and set this aside, you will need that for the next step. Then drain the pasta in a colander and transfer pasts to a bowl.
- Transfer some of the cheese/pepper paste onto the pasta and start stirring/mixing while adding some of the hot pasta water. Stir, mix, whatever it takes to 'dissolve' the pasta without damaging the pasta.
- Add more paste and pasta water until you have the desired combination of 'sauce' and pasta. (NOTE 3)
- Once the paste is 'dissolved' and clinging to the pasta, serve immediately. (NOTE 4)
- Sprinkle with grated cheese and pepper if you like.
- The amount of pepper you want to use for this recipe is very much up to you. It all depends on how much pepper you prefer. A teaspoon in this recipe for 2 is generating a nice peppery flavor, but is not too strong/spicy.
- Add the cold water in small portions; you can easily add too much, ending up with a watery paste.
- When you start mixing paste and pasta, be cautious when adding the hot pasta water. The same rule as in the beginning of this recipe, add a little bit at a time, you can never take water out, but adding a little more is always an option.
- Make sure you warm you dishes before you serve the pasta.