Cacio e Pepe
I always thought Cacio e Pepe was made with cream. Little did I know it’s the cheese mixed with the pasta water that creates the smooth cheesy sauce all by itself!
Gary and I took a pasta class in Milan back in 2019 with our friends Sue and Steve from New York. We met in Milan just to take the class. Although we did not make this dish at that time, this is when we met Pasta Pietro. We have since taken many of his classes via Zoom online. He is funny, amazing, and patient and his classes are a great deal of fun! Fresh pasta may be a little more work but it is lighter and not as filling as dry pasta. You can make some and actually freeze an extra batch.
This recipe for Cacio e Pepe and technique are from one of his classes. We highly recommend him if you would like to enjoy making pasta with a spouse, sibling, grandchildren, or even friends in different locations. You all can meet and take the class online together! You can find Pietro on the Internet at Pasta Pietro or on Instagram as ThePastaPietro.
NOTE: Always cook frozen fresh pasta directly from the freezer – do not defrost. It will be a mushy mess and you will wind up throwing it out!
Please read the directions before beginning to make this dish. The steps are essential, and you should be familiar with them before making them for the first time!
NOTE: If making fresh pasta is not your thing or you don’t have the time, use dried pasta but you must try this easy sauce!
Cacio e Pepe: An Easy Roman Pasta DishCourse: Main DishCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Medium – Difficult
If you don’t want to make fresh pasta, purchase it at a store and just make the sauce.
1 cup Pecorino Romano cheese (the more aged the better) (200 grams) *see note below
1/2 tbsp black pepper to taste (Better if it is freshly ground. You can add more or less. Remember, you can always put a little more when serving too!)
FOR FRESH PASTA
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted. (200 grams) If you can get 00 flour, this will make a softer dough – better for pasta)
Grate Pecorino Romano cheese
- Put flour on the table and make a large hole in the center about the size of the palm of your hand. You could use a bowl to contain everything if you wish.
- Crack 2 eggs and drop them in the open well inside the flour
- With a fork, scramble the eggs inside the well. Little by little add flour from the sides of the well, mixing constantly. The mixture will become thick and you will probably need to remove the dough forming on the fork.
- Once incorporated, begin kneading the dough. Using your weight, push against the dough, fold it in half, and turn it a quarter. Keep kneading until smooth in texture. This should take quite a bit of time. There are plenty of YouTube videos on how to do this. Take your time and learn – it does get easier once you master this technique.
- You will know when the glutens have been released as when you push down with two fingers, the dough gives a bit and then springs back. You need to make sure it has been kneaded enough. If not, the pasta will be too hard and difficult to use.
- Keep mixing adding only enough flour so the mixture is not sticky. You should almost use the entire amount of flour.
- Once the right texture is achieved, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put it aside. The dough could be put in the refrigerator if not used within a few hours.
- Let this dough rest for at least an hour if you can. When ready to start, flour your table with a few throws of flour. Put the dough on the floured table and dust it slightly. Flatten out the ball and from the middle of the dough, use the rolling pin to push away from you and begin stretching the dough. Turn a quarter and again from the middle of the dough, and push out to the end. Continue rotating the dough and stretching it from the middle to the end until the dough becomes a large circle.
- Make sure you always have a little bit of flour on the dough to keep it from sticking to the table – rub it on the dough lightly. When the dough gets to be large, you can lift it off the table by rolling it lightly around the rolling pin to lift it, add a throw of more flour, and lay it down again.
- You want the dough thin enough – almost transparent. If you like thicker pasta, then stop accordingly.
- Turn and begin hand-cutting the long folded circle into slices. The size of the slice determines the width of the fettuccini. Keep cutting until done. Cut strips in half to make smaller pieces if you wish.
- When you unfold the pasta it should look like this…
- INSTRUCTIONS FOR COOKING
- In a large frying pan, grind some fresh pepper to coat the bottom of the pan. You could always add more at the end. Toast the pepper until aromatic for just a few minutes. Set pan aside. (You are going to add the cooked pasta into this pan.)
- Important: Bring water to a boil in a medium size pot. Do not fill the pot with a lot of water. The reason is that you want concentrated amounts of starch from the cooked pasta as you will use the pasta water to make the sauce.
- When water boils, add salt. Fresh pasta doesn’t have much taste you so you need to season the water but… consider that Pecorino Romano cheese is very salty, therefore, my advice is to add half of the amount of salt for cooking Cacio e Pepe. You can always add more before serving if it needs.
- Add pasta at one time and cook al dente – about 1 minute. You don’t need to cook it long as it will also be cooking in the pan with the pepper and cheese.
- Remove pasta with tongs and put directly in the frying pan with the toasted pepper.
- Add some pasta water (perhaps a ladel or two, depending on the size of your ladel) to a bowl with the cheese and make a thick sauce. Add this to the pasta and pepper. TAKE PAN OFF STOVETOP. You don’t want to cook the cheese.
- Gradually add enough pasta water until you get a creamy consistency. Should not need a lot but you want it creamy – not watery. If the sauce becomes too watery, add more cheese; if it becomes too dry, add more water.
- Season with more freshly ground black pepper and toss. Sprinkle a little Pecorino Romano on top. Serve immediately and enjoy delicious Cacio e Pepe!
- ** If you can’t find Pecorino, Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano would be okay
- Here’s another idea: Gary and I just made a homemade pizza and instead of using tomato sauce, we used this sauce instead. We added some roasted vegetables on top – Excellent
- If you want to freeze fresh pasta, shake as much of the flour off as you can and wind them in small loose balls. Freeze them but when you go to cook them – DON’T DEFROST! Cook them from a frozen state otherwise, you will wind up with mush!