Cacio e pepe is a perfectly simplistic and classic Roman pasta dish. The 4 ingredients are just cheese, pasta, pepper, and salt. Like any traditional Italian dish, the basic ingredients do not equate to a boring meal. In fact, if there is anything that a cucina Romana, or Roman kitchen, has taught me, it is that the more minimal the ingredients, the better the taste. This, my fellow foodies, could not be truer in the case of cacio e pepe. Before we fire up the stove though, let’s learn a little bit about the origin of our dinner.
The cheesy history
One of my favorite parts of Italian cooking is learning the history of the ingredients and dishes. The preparation and consumption of food has such deep roots in the Italian culture that I find you can’t fully enjoy the fruits of the chef’s labor without knowing the story. Cacio is Roman dialect for the main ingredient, pecorino romano cheese. It is a sheep’s cheese that has evidence of being consumed over 3,000 years ago with a history of production in Asia Minor and the Mediterranean.
Black pepper started its famous journey in prehistoric Egypt then quickly made it’s way to Greece and the Roman Empire where it was a hot commodity in spice markets and even used as a currency.
It was very common for shepherds in the region Lazio, who spent months at a time outside, to keep the supplies with them to whip up a batch of the cheesy goodness. Because cacio doesn’t spoil quickly and the spicy pepper generated body heat, it was the perfect recipe to keep people warm during their work.
And so, the magic was perfected.
…I think it’s time to eat, right?
Simple Cacio e Pepe Pasta Recipe
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 10 min
Serves: 4 people
- 400 g spaghetti
- Ground black pepper to taste
- Pecorino Romano (not parmesan) 180-200g grated
- 1 pinch salt
- Grate Pecorino Romano cheese in a large bowl with high edges.
- Bring water to a boil and add a pinch of salt (pecorino is a salty cheese or be mindful of how big your pinch is).
- Add pasta once water is boiling, not before.
- Once the boiling pasta has a white frothy color, take a ladle and pour one scoop of water into the cheese (grated) bowl.
- Mix well with a wooden spoon or whisk to create a creamy and smooth sauce. Continue stirring till there are no lumps.
- Taste the pasta at this point for preference of firmness. I urge you to be Italian and eat it al dente- it magically tastes even better.
- Before draining the pasta use a ladle and take one or two scoops of cooking water in a separate bowl.
- Drain pasta.
- Pour pasta and cheese sauce in a large frying pan with lowest possible heat, stirring constantly.
- If you notice the noodles are too dry, add a bit more of the pasta water. If the dish is too watery, add more pecorino, pinches at a time with consistent stirring and tossing.
- Add freshly ground black pepper in abundance, tossing the pasta till you have a creamy and smooth sauce.
**Serve quickly- Immediately you have to eat pasta with cheese!**
Looking for more authentic Italian recipes? Check out our unique yet classic pumpkin risotto. Traveling around Italy and want to know all insider tips and secrets for your vacation? Don’t miss our Roman Guy Italy Travel Blog posts for insider secrets! #ItalyOurWay