Over time, I feel like I have mastered what seems to be a very simple dish, and yet has such interesting nuance – Cacio e Pepe! Here’s my recipe, which in reality is just restating a very traditional recipe in words that make sense to me!
- Boil water in a pan for your spaghetti, but put about half of the amount of water you usually use to cook the pasta, so it will be richer in starch. When it boils you can salt at will. Once salted, add 250 gm spaghetti. Cook slightly less than your “al dente” preference, as it will continue to cook more in the pan later.
- In the meantime, pour about 1 tsp whole peppercorns on a cutting board then mash them with a chef’s knife. You can also use a coarse pepper mill This allows the pungent scent of pepper to be released.
- Grate about 200 grams of pecorino romano cheese and set aside.
- When your pasta is nearing “slightly less” than al dente, pour half of the crushed pepper into a large non-stick pan, toast it over low heat, stirring with a wooden scoop then blend with a couple of ladles of pasta cooking water. The bubbles that you will see appear will be due to the starch contained in the water. When the spaghetti are very al dente, scoop it from the pot and put directly into the pan with the toasted pepper; the spaghetti will continue cooking slightly as the sauce comes together.
- Lift pasta continuously with kitchen tongs to make it “breathe”. Add a ladle of water or two as needed, and continue cooking the spaghetti with the pepper.
- Add a bit more water as needed (when you see that the pan is almost completely dry) and lift the spaghetti with the kitchen tongs.
- As the pasta nears your desired texture, add about half of the pecorino into another small pan on medium heat with some of the pasta water. Whisk together, and when smooth, add the rest of the cheese, reserving a little for topping. Add a little more water as needed, stirring constantly to keep smooth.
- Turn off the pan with the spaghetti and pour the pecorino cream while tossing the spaghetti continuously with kitchen tongs. Add the reserved Pecorino that you had kept aside, stir and sauté the pasta again then serve your spaghetti with additional cheese and pepper for diners to add as they like.
And, well, ENJOY!