Recipe for Cheese and Pepper Pasta: Pasta con Cacio e Pepe

by Anne Maxfield on April 29, 2011

Accidental Locavore Madagascar PepperHere’s a classic recipe using my own fresh fettuccine, cheese and pepper. Since the Accidental Locavore has her (small) stash of wild Madagascar pepper, what’s the best recipe to pair with it? Steak au poivre? Never been a favorite, but with this amazing pepper, who knows? Grind it on my salad for lunch? I’m not worthy. There’s also a fear that I may grow too fond of it and not be able to replace it without going back to Nice (twist my arm). A quick Google search didn’t come up with much. Pepper-Passion has Madagascar peppercorns, but are they wild, or tame? So how about an Italian classic; Pasta con Cacio e Pepe? It’s one of those seemingly simple dishes that everyone disagrees on how it should be properly made. The consensus is that it always contains Pecorino Romano and black pepper, after that everyone has an opinion. I settled on this recipe from Saveur magazine because I liked the idea of cooking the peppercorns in oil (to bring out more flavor). Saveur’s recipe serves 4, mine’s for 2 (I made a small batch of fettuccine: 1 egg, 1 cup of flour, a little water as needed). This is really quick, the longest part will be waiting for the water to boil.

Adapted from Saveur. Serves 2

  • 1/2 pound pasta (a long thin one like spaghetti, linguini, or fettuccine)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (use something good here)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper (either use a very coarse grind, or crack peppercorns with the back of a big knife, a mortar and pestle works great here too and you’re not chasing stray peppercorns…) plus more to taste (Cozy this means you may want to add a little more at the end to give it a bigger pepper taste. Up to you)
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano (plus additional to top the pasta)
  • 1/2 cup grated Cacio de Roma (if you can’t find this, just use more Pecorino, a lot of the recipes I saw just used Pecorino)

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Always use a lot of salt in pasta water, that’s what gives it flavor. Be bold! When the water has come to a boil, add the pasta and cook until it’s just al dente. If you’re using fresh pasta this will only take a minute or two, for dried; about 8-10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, drain the pasta, and return it to the pot just so it stays warm. Heat the olive oil in a 12″ skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the pepper and cook until fragrant about a minute or two. Accidental Locavore Pasta con Cacio e PepeLadle 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water into the skillet, bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the skillet, spread out it evenly (tongs will help here). Sprinkle the cheeses over the pasta; toss vigorously to combine until the sauce is creamy and clings without clumping. This will take about 2 minutes, and you may need to add a little of the extra water to thin it down. Transfer to 2 plates and sprinkle with Pecorino and pepper. Serve and enjoy.

My rating: 4 stars. The fettuccine came out really well, and the sauce was good. I probably used close to a tablespoon of pepper, most of it mixed in, but a little on top as a garnish (as the photo).  Didn’t need to add any more Pecorino to it, but it might have benefited from a little salt. It took less than 1/2 hour from start to finish. You should have everything ready, as it comes together really fast once the pasta is cooked.

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