Escape Artists

Recipe: Cacio e Pepe

One of my favorite first courses is “pasta cacio e pepe”.  Cacio means cheese and pepe means pepper in Italian.  It would be a mistake to stop here in the description because ingredients are not commodities to me.  The key factors for a successful dish are the quality of the ingredients, together with the correct temperature and timing for cooking. That’s why I always choose high quality authentic ingredients.  I am never ready to begin to cook this dish if my soul and my mind are not focused on the aim to prepare a little masterpiece.

What demonstrates good result of my performance?
Oh, the smile of my guests and their regret to see the empty plate.

Protected cheese, Pecorino Romano! Protected cheese, Pecorino Romano!

Let’s begin!
In a mixing bowl we put a lot of grated Pecorino Romano DOP.   Pecorino Romano DOP is an aged cheese made in the Lazio but also in Sardinia, using only sheep cheese. Its taste is delightful and salty.  Be careful!  If you don’t use DOP you cannot be sure that it is a true and typical sheep cheese made as ancient tradition.

Let’s put also not a bit of ground black pepper.

About quantity, let’s say that weight of Pecorino Romano DOP has to be the half of the weight of pasta and let’s say that my way to compute the total weight of pasta is 1 kilo for 9 persons.  About black pepper, rather than weight we will say, as I already said: . .  not a bit !

Let’s go to the stove.  There is a large pot with water on a good flame so that the water will boil soon and we will put pasta in it.

Looks grate! Looks grate!

Which pasta?

Well.  Good question.  Our choices are between short pasta or long pasta. In my personal opinion there is a smart choice for long and a smart choice for short. Yes, I’d use spaghetti orspaghetti alla chitarra (guitar) when the choice is for long and rigatoni when the choice is for short.

Who is the pasta maker? 

I have few excellent providers and I trust them and I enjoy their products. Today I am using pasta made by Gemme del Vesuvio, a small factory at the feet of Vesuvio. The owner is a young man. His name is Arcangelo and his talent and his passion for the excellent quality of his production is very high as I like.

Don't forget to cook the pasta! Don’t forget to cook the pasta!

Boil the Water

The water in the large pot for pasta is boiling.  This time my dear friends I decided on “spaghetti” and “spaghetti” it will be !  How much spaghetti?  When we are four, for us it is enough about one pound (let’s say more or less 500 grams).  They fall in the boiling water and I am ready to smoothly touch them by a wood spoon so that they are entirely under the boiling water.

Please, remember: NO SALT in the water

And why?   Because we grated a lot of Pecorino Romano DOP and its salty taste is perfect to avoid salt in pasta. So be careful: if you add salt in the boiling water with pasta when your recipe is “cacio e pepe” you’ll make a big mistake!  We watch the cooking of pasta and spaghetti are al dente now (about 10 minutes).  To be sure about the correct cooking timing there is only one way: let’s taste half spaghetto. Is it al dente ? OK.

Now follow me carefully because a little mistake from now to the table can  ruin our previous efforts.

  1. Use colander to drain the spaghetti and store few spoons of the boiled water.
  2. Put spaghetti from colander to the mixing bowl with grated Pecorino Romano DOP and ground black pepper.  Immediately add one spoon of the reserved cooking water. Using a wood spoon and a wood fork, in a delicate way, enabling them to hug each other. If spaghetti are not slippery with the sauce, add one more spoon of the boiled water, but, please, do it in a very fast way because the grated cheese cannot become crumbs, it has to have a delightful texture, please.
  3. Carefully, let’s put this treasure, portion by portion, in the warm dishes of our friends at the table. Warm temperature of the dishes is important. As a cherry on the pie, put upon every dish a little bit of ground black pepper.

Please run to the table and . . . . buon appetito!  Your guests will thank you and will beg for a second dinner very soon.Don’t worry,  we will prepare for them a different recipe.

A delightful, homemade Roman classic, Cacio e Pepe! A delightful, homemade Roman classic, Cacio e Pepe!

Editor’s Note:

Soon you will be able to buy traditional ingredients direct from Italy.   Please sign up on our mailing list for further information.

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