Cacio e Pepe - Italian Pasta Recipe

Cacio e Pepe....yum yum yum and yum! I first noticed this classic Roman pasta dish a couple of years ago before a trip to Rome. Having been to Rome many times I couldn’t believe it had never caught my eye on previous visits. I immediately knew I had to try it because of my undying love for Pecorino cheese, and as the main ingredient I knew I couldn't go wrong.  Pasta, pecorino, pepper, olive oil and that's it? Are you sure? How could only a few simple ingredients make something so creamy and delicious? And how could a name so simple as Cacio e Pepe which just means cheese and pepper be so romantic sounding? I don't know, but I wasn’t surprised they are Italian. They seem to do this kind of thing all the time. Is there any other culture in the world that can make the most divine dishes out of so few ingredients and such simple words?! Just a couple of the reasons I’m obsessed and hungry for all things Italian….all the time!

I chose the restaurant La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali (info below) to try Cacio e Pepe for the first time. I came across them when searching for "can't miss" restaurants in Rome. They were close to where we were staying (Colosseum area) and they had gluten free pasta (the best we have ever had) for my husband. The first night we tried to have dinner there the restaurant was full (completo), something we came across a lot even though it was November. I don’t know if there is an “off season” in Rome where good restaurants are concerned, so if you plan to go to this one or any other that has a good reputation.....make a reservation! We made ours for lunch the next day and it was well worth the wait. The restaurant’s ambiance was perfectly Roman…perfectly Italian…small tables with white linen table clothes and napkins, walls full of history, life and love of the place…shiny silverware and tall wine glasses sparkling in the light….just perfectly perfect. It was bustling with workers and happy customers, some speaking English…a lot speaking Italian, but there was a feeling of calm and relaxation as we sat down to stay for as long as we wanted. We sipped on wine, my daughter had bread for dinner once again, and our stomachs waited in anticipation for what was to come. Always excited to try a new Italian dish, I was overwhelmed with contentment at the plate of Cacio e Pepe that was placed before me. Creamy and spicy and everything I'd hoped for! I. Was. Hooked. The experience and the food filled us up with happiness that day and it was more then we had hoped for. I left there knowing that I wouldn’t be waiting to return to Rome to have this wonderful dish and that I would be making Cacio e Pepe at home sometime soon. And since that trip, and that first plate, I have made and enjoyed it many times. My first go at it, I have to admit, I was a little intimidated because this seemingly simple pasta dish can be a bit trickier to make then one might think….at first. It is well worth any effort that you may put into it though, and really in the end, it does become that simple pasta dish that can transport you back to the most satisfying of memories. It is now one of the favorite go to dishes in our home…especially since we always seem to have Pecorino cheese (remember that love?) and pasta on hand… every good Italy lover should :)

~ Cacio e Pepe ~ 

1 lb. dried spaghetti, bucatini or tonnarelli pasta

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

4 - 5 oz. Pecorino Romano cheese, very finely grated (2 + cups)

Salt to taste for the pasta

1. In a large pot bring a large amount of water to boiling; season with salt. Add pasta; cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 2 cups cooking liquid.

2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it shimmers, add black pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Remove skillet from heat. Add 3/4 cup pasta water. Return to heat; bring to boiling. The starchy water and oil will come together to form a glossy sauce.

3. Add drained pasta to pan; toss to coat (this part is important). Sprinkle in all but a handful of cheese. Using tongs, vigorously toss pasta, adding cooking liquid as needed to create a creamy sauce that clings to the pasta without clumping. Salt to taste. Top with remaining cheese and additional ground black pepper. Serve Immediately. Makes 6 servings.

Buon Appetito and remember that this dish goes great with wine!

This is where we had our first Cacio e Pepe experience - La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali Via della Madonna dei Monti, 9, 00184 Roma, TEL: 06.679.86.43 Italy Their website is both in Italian and English. Reservations are recommended.