Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cacio e pepe

Cacio e pepe is just a fancy Italian way of saying "spaghetti with cheese and pepper." In other words, this is what you make when there's nothing else in the house.

But because there are so few ingredients, you really have to use the good stuff. If you use pepper out of that pepper shaker in the back of the cupboard, it won't be good. If you (God forbid) use that cheese-flavored dandruff called Kraft's parmesan, it won't be good. In fact, to be truly authentic, you shouldn't use parmesan at all--pecorino romano is the way to go here.

I used a combination of cheeses, because that's how I roll. I buy parmesan in blocks at Costco and grate it myself, but because real parm is exhorbitant (even at Costco; a block of the good stuff is pushing $25), I mix it with a (cheaper) block of pecorino romano and sometimes either a block of asiago or a block of domestic parm. I grate it all, dump it into a gallon-sized ziploc, and shake to blend. More cost-effective than straight parm, and just as good.

I also used good, fresh pepper; if you don't have a good pepper mill, you can use a bowl or something to crack open peppercorns on the countertop.

So, here's all you need:

1 box spaghetti
A cup or so of the pasta water
2 tablespoons butter
Maybe 1/4 cup olive oil
At least three big handfuls of freshly grated pecorino romano
Lots and lots of freshly grated pepper (probably at least 5-6 tablespoons worth, if not more)

Cook the spaghetti to al dente. Reserve a cup of the cooking water. In the same pan, heat the oil and butter together. Dump the spaghetti and spaghetti water back in, and mix together well. Add the cheese and pepper, mix well, serve.

The bite of the pepper highlights the tang of the cheese, so you really can't have too much pepper, even if you think you don't like a lot of pepper.

It sounds like a boring dish (plain noodles with cheese and pepper? really?), but the total is more than the sum of the ingredients.

1 comment:

  1. Um, that doesn't look boring at all! I am the same way with good Parm - my store sells it for like $22 for a big wedge - $10.99 a pound on sale. The last time I was at the store, I asked the deli guy to give me 1/3 of the wedge (I can justify the price then!) and realized when I got home that he repriced it at $1.99 a pound!! Score!