Bon Appétit once described Cacio e Pepe as “stripped-down mac and cheese” and I think that’s a pretty spot-on way of putting it. This pasta is simple in preparation yet has a wonderfully elegant complexity in its flavors. The main aspect of this dish is the heaping teaspoon of black pepper, which offers a warm, toasty flavor to an otherwise straightforward dish. When I was younger I would commonly come home to find my mother eagerly awaiting a home cooked dinner. I would go into the kitchen to find a scarce fridge with barely any fresh produce, to which she’d excitedly say, that’s the point of it all! After getting over the fact that my mother had set up a culinary challenge in our very own kitchen, I would get to making pasta. Luckily for me the days of homemade chopped are a thing of the past, however, out of it, I have come to value a well-executed pasta dish. Traditionally, Cacio e Pepe contains cheese, butter, pepper and pasta. I added some lemon zest to add an element of freshness and some curly Italian parsley to round the dish off. Still incredibly simply simple, yet, unbelievably decadent.
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 lemon, zested
- 1/4 chopped fresh curly parsley
- 1/4 cup grated Pecorino
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan
- 1 lb spaghetti
- coarse salt (preferably Maldon)
- Boil salted water in a large pot and add pasta.
- In a mid-sized pan on medium heat, add 4 tablespoons of butter and pepper, cook for about 1 minute or until toasted but not brown. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water and add to the butter mixture, cook for another minute.
- Once al dente add pasta into butter and pepper mixture along with the last tablespoon of butter, lemon zest, parsley and cheese. Toss on low heat until the pasta is coated and everything is combined. If it’s too thick add a little more pasta water, tablespoons at a time.
- Garnish with chopped parsley, lemon zest, salt + pepper.