Alright buckle up I'm about to show you one the easiest and most comforting fancy meals you can make!
Cacio e Pepe is Italian for cheese and pepper - the main ingredients. It fills your kitchen with the delicious smell of roasted pepper, and it fills your stomach with a great and comforting feeling.
This dish has a fancy name and looks even fancier. Perfect whenever you want to impress someone by whipping together a meal.
Let's get to it!
Step 1: Ingredients and Tools
The following ingredients are enough for two persons. Adjust accordingly, or add a salad or garlic bread if you want to feed more people.
- 400g (14.1 oz) pasta
- I reccommend long pasta like spaghetti, spaghettini, fettucini, or linguini
- You might feel more full from whole grain pasta, but this is the time to choose some light pasta. This goes much better with the flavours in the dish
- Needs to be whole black pepper and not pre-ground. This might seem the same, but makes a huge difference in the way everything is prepared
- Any regular butter made for frying or baking will do
- Both pecorino and parmesan are hard cheese this means they go great in the freezer. You won't have to worry about wasting any cheese if you buy too much.
- You should cut the cheese to pre-weighed bits before freezing it. Now you can just pull out however much cheese you need from the freezer the next time you're going to make this
- Just a pinch of each. Adds a lot of pizazz to the boiling pasta
- Frying pan
- Pan for boiling pasta
- Cheese and vegetable shredder
- Rolling pin
- Plastic freezing bag
Step 2: A Whole Lot of Pasta
Here's five great tips for any pasta dish, and we'll use all of them to bring our dish to perfection!
- Use a lot of water
- Pasta comes out really great when it boils with a lot of space. To make sure of this you should use a lot of water, much more than you might think. The water should be enough to cover the pasta about three to four times.
- High temperature
- Another way to give the pasta a lot of space is to use the highest temperature you can. When the water is rapidly boiling it will have a lot of movement and toss the pasta around in the water.
- To bring out the taste in any dish you need salt, this also applies when boiling pasta. Add a decent pinch for every 200g (7oz) of pasta you add.
- Olive oil
- Another tip to aid the taste while the pasta is still boiling is to add some olive oil. This also has the benefit of making the pasta less sticky when you finally pour out the water.
- Use the pasta water
- Now we've just made the best pasta boiling water let's put it to use! The water is filled salt, olive oil, and starches released from the pasta dough. This is a great addition to any sauce you might make to your pasta dish. Instead of adding regular (and boring) water to your pasta sauce, just use some pasta water! The starches in the water will also help thicken the sauce and make it less runny.
For this dish you need to make about 400g (14.1 oz) of pasta. Follow the steps above, but make sure you only boil the pasta half way finished right now. In my case the pasta required 8 minutes so I boiled it four 4 minutes. When you pour of the water make sure you save some of the pasta water! I strained the pasta over a small pan so I had enough water to play around later.
Step 3: Prepping the Pepper
Open up your pepper grinder and take out one tablespoon of whole pepper grains. These are going to be smashed into rough pieces before they are roasted.
Start by placing your frying pan on your stove and turn it up to medium-high heat. It's a good idea to start by heating up your pan so it is sufficiently hot when we start roasting the pepper.
Although it would smell great, you might not want bits of black pepper over your whole kitchen. So I recommend to grab a small plastic bag, like a bread bag or zip lock bag, and dump your pepper inside. Now lay the bag on a cutting board and start smashing it with a rolling pin or another blunt object.
You want the pepper in rough pieces, about one third or one fourth of a whole pepper grain. Look at the picture in this step to get the idea of how they should look!
Now grab the bag and dump all the smashed, black pepper into the pan, try to spread it out. The pepper should be roasted in this dry pan for about 3 minutes. After this time add one tablespoon of butter and let it melt completely.
Step 4: Unleash the Cheese
You need 60g (2.1 oz) Pecorino Romano cheese and 30g (1 oz) Parmesan cheese. It's not at all that strict so I just measure by handfuls! One handful is circa 30g and then two handfuls will be about 60g. No kitchen scale necessary! Just remember that these handfuls are after the cheese has been grated, not before.
So go ahead and grate two handfuls of pecorino cheese and one handful of parmesan cheese. You can just use a rough grating to make it go faster. The size of the gratings won't really matter because all the cheese gets melted anyways!
Step 5: Bringing It All Together
Here's where everything comes together to make one on point dish. This happens fast so have your line up ready!
Grab the pan with the pepper and melted butter and add a couple spoons of the delicious pasta water. Let it start to boil.
Now throw the still hot pasta into the pan with the pepper and butter/water mix. Remember how it was half way done cooking? It's going to finish in the pan, but not all the way. When the pasta is almost, but not completely done cooking it's called al dente. This gives the pasta a slight resistance when you chew it.
After the pasta is dumped into the pan keep adding pasta water so the pasta is about half way covered with the water in the pan, but not too much you can always add more water later. Stir everything so it get's evenly boiled.
When the pasta is close to al dente start adding the cheese. You should add the cheese in small portions and stir those into the pasta and let it blend with the pepper and butter. Now you need to balance the amount of pasta water. You're almost done and you don't want a runny dish, so there shouldn't be too much water. It's best to let it boil with a small amount and then add some more water along with the cheese to get a creamy consistency.
Step 6: Enjoy the Extravaganza
After all the cheese has melted and the pasta is boiled to al dente you can pat yourself on the back, you're done!
Serve the pasta up in two deep plates and top with some more parmesan for a great look. Crack open a bottle of red wine or your beverage of choice. You just made one of the fastest, cheesiest, most comforting, fancy dishes. You're sure to get brownie points from whoever you serve!