There is something so simple and divine about Cacio e Pepe. It embodies what Italian cooking is often about, simple and fresh ingredients coming together to serve up a dish super flavorful yet minimal. Simply put, it's cheese and pepper but please, I implore you, don't cheat yourself by buying pre-grated cheese. The time saved is not worth the flavor loss. Buy and eat real cheese! This is one of my platforms in life, cheese doesn't come in airtight plastic containers or individually wrapped slices. And the same goes for pepper; here especially. With this dish use fresh peppercorns ground just moments before cooking! The price point is about the same, the prep slightly longer, the results..... superior!
Now I'm gonna step off my cheese soap box and reflect a bit about Cacio e Pepe. One of the first times I had this was in Italy at a beautiful dinner with my cousins in Rome. Growing up, I have been very blessed at the efforts my family have put into keeping in touch with my cousins. We've visited each other multiple times, taken trips and extended stays and have so many countless and beautiful memories that I think, would make our ancestors very happy, While ordering that night, my beautiful cousin Maja suggested to my husband that he should get this dish, as it is a tradition of Rome and quite delicious. Maja was on the money! Brian loved it and when I came home, I set to recreate it. Traditionally Cacio e Pepe uses only Pecorino Romano but here I use both Pecorino and Parmigiano. I don't think the Italian Gods will strike me from the kitchen for this. I think they will understand that here in the USA we don't always have access to the same level of cheese magic that those in Italy do. I find by mixing these two glorious formaggi, you get a nice sharp and rich flavor which takes me back to that beautiful dinner in Rome.
I was recently on the road for the weekend with my show Burlesque-A-Pades. When our performance was done, the cast returned to our AirBnB and broke out the cheese, pepper and pasta to make this dish for an indulgent and delicious late night eat! It was a family affair, everyone was either grinding peppercorns or grating cheese, building up that appetite while we laughed, danced, dined and wine'd around the kitchen. It was a beautiful night revolving around delicious food, and I tell you, it did not disappoint; 2 pounds of pasta, 6 people and no leftovers.
In fact, we filmed a lot of our late night pasta-fest, so tune in and watch us get crazy in the kitchen post-show right here with The Maine Attraction, Mr Gorgeous, Albert Cadabra, Gal Friday & Frank, on my IGTV! Check it out!
What Do I Need
1 Ib Bucatini
1 cup Pecornino Romano
1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano (die hards can clip this and go with two cups of Pecorino, but I enjoy the mix)
3 - 4 T of fresh ground peppercorns (I say 4, but if you are scared go for three, but there is nothing to be scared of)
5 T unsalted butter
1/4 cup oil
reserved water from the pasta
Set a large pot of water to boil for the pasta, salt heavily - like 2 tablespoons heavy. When your water is boiling add your Bucatini, it should take about ten minutes to cook. While that is happening, heat a large saute pan and add your peppercorns over medium heat, stir them gently until they are fragrant. This will take anywhere from 2 - 5 minutes. Once fragrant, add your butter and oil, remove from heat and mix well.
When your pasta is done, set aside a mug full of the water your pasta cooked in, drain pasta and then add the pasta to the large saute pan with your pepper, butter and oil. Mix, toss well, I use tongs. I'm not sure if this is sacrilege, but it works well here. Mix well and add your reserved pasta cooking water as needed. You aren't making a real saucey sauce here but you want your Bucatini to be a a bit wet and have cheese and pepper clinging to it. I find I typically use about 1/4 of the reserved water.
Just move fast and mix well as you add and toss your pasta into the cheese, pepper, butter and oil mixture. Don't give it time to clump up, keep it moving and serve immediately.