Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe (Spaghetti with Pecorino Romano and Pepper) is one of the most ancient dishes of Italian cuisine. For centuries, cacio e pepe has been the perfect meal of the Roman shepherds. The dried pasta, aged pecorino, and black peppers are easy-to-carry ingredients that are hard to spoil.
Despite many recipes online, this traditional way of making cacio e pepe does not call for any oil, cream or butter. The perfect balance of starchy pasta water and grated pecorino combined in the right way are enough to create the creamy cacio e pepe sauce.
Making the perfect Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe
My family in law is from Rome and Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe was inevitably a dish for me to try. Right after Bucatini all’Amatriciana and Spaghetti alla Carbonara that is. The first time that I had pasta cacio e pepe, I couldn’t believe how those simple ingredients can balance in such perfect harmony. Immediate, I had to play around with the traditional recipe, to the scorn of the Roman purists around me. I played with making a peppery broth to produce the creamy sauce.
After a few experiments and lots of scrumptious lunches, I’ve settled on a recipe that’s pretty close to the original. I guess there is a reason that classics are classics. And in the case of Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe it doesn’t get more classic than this.
When in Rome
Cacio e Pepe is everywhere in Rome, and I implore you to give it a try when you can. You can find it in supplìs, a Roman version of Sicilian Arancini, and as pasta sauce all over the region. The unmistakable strong Pecorino and fiery pepper taste will teleport you back to Rome in an instance.
Let me know how you get on with combining these simple ingredients in the comments below or on Facebook.
Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe
- 200 g Spaghetti
- 2 tsp Black Peppercorns
- 100 g Pecorino Romano freshly grated
- Salt for the pasta
- Cook your pasta in a pot of salted water according to the packet instructions. Do not use too much water for this as we want the water to be nice and starchy.
- Crush the peppercorns in a pestle and mortar. If you don't have a pestle and mortar, you can also crush the peppercorns using the base of a heavy pot or pan.
- Finely grate the Pecorino Romano and set aside
- Half-way through the pasta cooking time, add the crushed pepper to a hot pan over medium-low heat. Roast the pepper for a couple of minutes to allow it to release all of its full flavour.
- In a separate bowl, mix the grated Pecorino Romano with one ladle of pasta water into a smooth paste.
- When the pasta is nearly done, add 2 ladles of pasta water into the pan with the pepper and let it combine for a minute.
- Add the Spaghetti straight from its pot to the pepper stock (do not drain your pasta!) and start stirring immediately.
- After about 1 minute, take the pan off the heat and add the Pecorino mixture and stir continuously until a smooth creamy sauce forms.
- Serve immediately with a sprinkle of freshly grated Pecorino. Enjoy!