Cacio e Pepe
Like any good Italian dish, every family has its own version. This is MY version of the peppery, creamy dish. I like to keep it all in one pan!
Half a package of spaghetti
2 tablespoons butter
just under 1 tablespoon of coarsely ground pepper
1/2 cup or more of shredded Parmesan and/or Pecorino cheese
salt to taste
I put my pasta in a wide enough pot to fit it all laying down flat, usually a 4 quart saute pan or a 12 inch skillet. Today I’m using about half a package of spaghetti and just enough water to cover the pasta. Even though the ends of my pasta is peeking out, I’ll push around the pasta once it’s relaxed enough to curve into the pot. The pasta will cook for as long as your package instructs.
In the meantime, let’s work on our pepper. You MUST use freshly ground pepper. Hopefully you have a pepper grinder to get coarsely ground pieces to then crush in a mortar and pestle into a fragrant powder. For half a package of pasta, use just under 1 tablespoon of coarsely ground pepper to hit the right level of pepper and flavor without the pain of too much. Now we’ll grind this into a powder.
Once your pasta is ready, drain most of the water and leave just a little in the pan. I don’t know how much, but not enough to cover the entire bottom of the pan, but enough to leave a puddle here and there.
Now for the butter! Yessss. Use 2 tablespoons of butter to melt into the hot pasta (the heat is off the stove) and a couple pinches of salt. Sprinkle in most of the pepper powder. Mix it well. Taste, and mix in more if you feel you can handle it. Oh, here’s my secret ingredient - bottarga. It’s salt-cured fish eggs. It adds some umami depth to the dish without tasting fishy, like a really good caesar dressing. And now for the cheese! Shredded Parmesan and/or pecorino do really well in this dish. Use as much as you like. You can always use a little, taste, add more if you like the direction it’s going. You can also serve extra pepper and cheese in little dishes for guests to add what they like.
In about 15 minutes, you can have this elegant, fragrant pasta dish - Cacio e pepe! A staple in my household and hopefully soon in yours.