When in Rome, there’s one pasta dish that you MUST try. It’s a bucket list food! It’s heaven on a plate. It’s creamy, unforgettable bliss! It’s Cacio e Pepe!
Cacio e Pepe is seriously so . . . damn . . . good that it has been prepared for centuries in Rome, Italy, where it was originally created.
Cacio e Pepe is perfectly delicious in its incredible simplicity: Pasta, Pecorino Romano cheese, and freshly cracked black pepper . . . period. The name literally means ‘cheese and pepper”.
Just a few high-quality ingredients and technique . . . that’s what Cacio e Pepe is all about! When preparing the dish, you use some of the hot water from the pasta pot that the pasta was cooking in. The sauce ‘creams’ by the starch in the hot water working like a gentle glue that ultimately thickens up the recipe. The cheese also melts from the hot pasta. So it’s not really a sauce, but rather it’s a creamy, silky smooth cheese coating on the pasta noodles. Add in the strong, earthy essence of freshly cracked black pepper, and a delicious contrast in flavors results. If possible, crack some fresh black peppercorns in a pepper grinder or a coffee bean grinder. You’ll love the fresh aroma added to the dish that’s almost intoxicating!
Remember to only use really high quality Italian thin spaghetti if you can. The texture can’t be beat plus quality pasta releases more starch that contributes to the creamy cheese ‘sauce’. The best pasta State-side that is closest to Italian quality spaghetti is literally Barilla’s ‘Collezzione’ spaghetti that is hard to find in most markets but can be found on Amazon. Our local Publix carries it, but before that, I had to buy it online. I won’t buy any other spaghetti now unless it’s imported from Italy or the Barilla Collezzione pasta.
Whenever we travel, we do our culinary homework to determine where to find the best of any traditional recipe, the best gelato, the best street food and local fresh markets. Those places are not always the ‘big name’ restaurants that some may think. In fact, we love to ask the locals for their favorite places because they usually know the best-kept secrets. You know that you’re in a local favorite when you’re the only people in the place that speak English and everyone is staring at you. We had never heard of this place before but found out that Roma Sparita makes a memorable Cacio e Pepe.
Well, I must tell you that, as promised, Roma Sparita delivered the smoothest, silkiest, creamiest, cheesiest version of Cacio e Pepe that I’ve ever tasted. Because of that nirvana pasta experience, I just had to re-create the recipe. To my surprise, I discovered that the authentic recipe was slightly adjusted . . . the secret ingredient of a tad bit of butter is added. BUTTER! The non-traditional use of butter creates a sauce that is even more creamy. Puritans will frown at that, but one of the best recipes is served at a Roman eatery where a bit o’ butter is added. Just giving a heads up for all of all of those recipe purists.
Ever since childhood, my family has always prepared what we called ‘white’ spaghetti . . . the only ingredients being pasta, butter, salt and pepper. It is absolutely brilliant in taste and always served alongside the red-sauced pasta. I always gobble up the buttered spaghetti first! So it’s no wonder to me that I have fallen in love with this special version of Cacio e Pepe!
Here’s a map of where the restaurant is with Vatican City and Villa Borghese as reference points to the north.
So when you visit Rome, check out this small Italian restaurant and enjoy their famous Cacio e Pepe!
Please kindly pin this image to save on Pinterest:
- 8 oz. of good quality, Italian spaghetti
- 6 cups well-salted boiling water
- Set aside 1-1/2 cups of the hot pasta water
- 2 tablespoon freshly, coarsely grated pepper, plus more for garnish
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1-3/4 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus a LOT more for garnish
- OR 1 cup grated parmigiana cheese plus 3/4 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese if you prefer a less sharp, less salty cheese flavor.
For the Parmesan bowl
- 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- Start the sauce when the spaghetti is not quite cooked, about 3 minutes before you would normally take it out of the water.
- In a tall pot of boiling hot water, cook the pasta until nearly cooked, about 4 minutes.
- Pull the pasta up and out of the water and allow it to drain.
- In an already heated saute pan big enough to hold all of the pasta, add the reserved boiling pasta water, the butter and the pepper three minutes before removing the pasta out of the water.
- Add the drained pasta to saute pan and toss the pasta with the hot water mixture until the pasta absorbs almost all of the water.
- Cook the pasta in the "sauce" until it's al dente and has absorbed most of the liquid.
- Remove the pan from the heat and quickly stir in 1-3/4 cups of grated parmesan or pecorino Romano to the pasta so that it becomes creamy.
- If the 'sauce' begins to clump or gets too dry, just add a little more of the pasta water as you are stirring.
- Arrange your cacio e pepe in the cradle of each Parmigiana bowl.
- Garnish with more freshly grated cheese and freshly cracked black peppercorns.
- Minced fresh Italian parsley and/or a sprig of fresh Italian parsley is a very pretty garnish too!
- Buon Appetito!
More Traditional Roman Dishes That You’ll Enjoy:
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