The first time I actually heard about Cacio e Pepe was sometime in 2016 when I stumbled upon a YouTube video about the rage going on. I was so intrigued by it that I kept myself updated with everything I could lay my hands on about this new recipe on the block.
Turns out, Cacio e Pepe is very common in Roman households and is one of the most favorite homecooked recipes for Romans. It had just not entered the world of restaurants yet.
Not the case anymore, though.
Back then, I read about how Cacio e Pepe had taken over social media, with all the biggies in the food world talking about it, and also introducing it in their restaurants. This very same dish was termed New York’s “trendiest dish of 2016!”
2016 was still a formative year in pasta learning for me, so it was hard for me to believe that a pasta with three ingredients can become so popular. But all my doubts were erased when I started making it for myself.
I know I make a LOT of pasta, and I cannot get enough of it. Having said that, I can also very comfortably now express that Cacio e Pepe is one of my favorite ways to make pasta. And oh boy, is it delicious!
The sharpness of the freshly ground pepper, the magic of the reserved pasta water, the juicy spaghetti and the sinfulness of the cheese – what’s not to like? And to top it off, it goes with my constant need for tasty food that gets ready in the least amount of time and effort. And the usage of super fresh ingredients for that extra punch. A perfect dinner recipe indeed.
Coming back to facts about its origin, Cacio e Pepe is actually a Roman pasta recipe, cacio referring to cheese and pepe, to pepper.
It is traditionally served with square cut spaghetti or tonnarelli in Rome. Some chefs also prefer using rigatoni. I have used thick spaghetti, and it made a perfect recipe for me as I could slur(r)p up the cheesy goodness. Get the pun?
It is absolutely necessary that the pepper is fresh. So grind some fresh peppercorns into a powder to use here. Store bought black pepper powder will not bring out the taste freshly ground pepper will. The cheese used in the original Cacio E Pepe is Pecorino Romano. If you do not have this particular variety, you can use parmesan too.
So here is my version of Cacio e Pepe as a home cook, with no knowledge of culinary technicalities of the restaurant world. But I do have a lot of practice of making it a vital part of my dinner recipes.
- 100 g spaghetti
- 15 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 80 g butter
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 200 g button mushroom, each cut in half
- 2 tbsp finely chopped garlic
- 2 tbsp freshly crushed black pepper powder
- 1-liter water
- 100 g grated parmesan cheese
- Salt to taste
- Heat water in a pot. Add half a handful of salt to it. Addition of salt is very important in making pasta, and experts say that enough salt should be added to the water, and it should almost taste like saline water. Once the water comes to a boil, add the spaghetti and cook as per package instructions till al dente. Reserve about 100 ml of this hot, salty pasta water to be used later.
- While the spaghetti is cooking away, heat about 3 tbsp olive oil in a pan. Add 1 tbsp butter to it so that it doesn’t burn. Place the chopped onions on one side of the pan and the button mushrooms on the other. Fry this while stirring occasionally till the mushrooms and onions caramelize and turn into a beautiful brown color. Season with salt.
- In another pot, add almost 12 tbsp olive oil (remember this is going to be the base of this simple dish, and therefore the oil required is quite a lot). To this, add the finely chopped garlic and freshly ground pepper powder. Make sure you add the ingredients before the oil is too hot, as the flavors need to get infused into the oil. Keep the flame on low, and turn it to medium once the flavor assimilates into the olive oil.
- At this point, add the reserved salty pasta water, followed by 20 g butter to the olive oil infused with garlic and black pepper. Give it a good stir to mix everything together.
- Add the cooked spaghetti into this mixture, and stir. Let the spaghetti take in the flavors in that fluid. Switch off the fire once you see a good consistency. Add a generous helping of the parmesan cheese and mix it into the pasta. And serve hot! You may garnish with some parsley if you like.
Want more such pasta secrets? Grab them all here.
If you like this, do try it. You can follow the video along with the instructions as well. Always love hearing from you so do drop me a comment! 🙂