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Cacio e Pepe, aka Your New Favorite Food

The first time I ever had this was in culinary school when we were having a lesson on Roman food. We ate it with our hands (as they used to do a long time ago), and it was unforgettable! I thought I was being original saying cacio e pepe was my favorite food, but it turns out it is definitely a favorite dish among many. Cacio e pepe literally translates to “cheese and pepper” and that’s pretty much all there is to it. The trick behind this dish is the technique. I've had (and made) my fair share of bad cacio e pepes, even in Rome! Many skip the pasta water step resulting in a dry pasta, others skimp on the quality of cheese which is vital for its overall taste. The traditional recipe uses Pecorino Romano, but I prefer some extra-aged Parmigiano Reggiano. Also, SALT your water. Lots of it! Once you master this dish yourself, I hope this becomes your new favorite as well!


-2 servings-

Ingredients:

8 oz dried (half a box) or 16 oz fresh spaghetti or bucatini (see ravioli recipe for pasta-making tutorial)

2 t freshly cracked coarse black pepper

2 T unsalted butter, diced

1 T high quality olive oil

1 bay leaf (optional)

1 smashed garlic clove (optional)

1 c Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for garnishing


Method:

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until just barely al dente, about 80% cooked (about 4 minutes fresh, 9 dry). While the pasta is cooking, toast the pepper in a large pan on medium heat for about 30 seconds and then add the butter and olive oil. Once the butter is melted, add the bay leaf and smashed garlic if you choose and hold on low heat. When the pasta is ready, strain it, keeping 1.5 c of the pasta water (this is essential!). Add a cup of the pasta water to the butter mix along with the pasta. Stir quickly with tongs and add in the parm. Continue to stir until everything is incorporated and add additional pasta water if it appears dry. Serve with a generous amount of cheese on top and season to taste with additional pepper if you desire. Enjoy! If you’re like me this will become one of your regular meals.. Time to hit the gym.






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