Creamy, Cacio e Pepe
What is Cacio e Pepe?
Cacio e Pepe is a pasta dish that originated in Italy from the modern Roman Cuisine. It is made from just a few ingredients. Aged pecorino, pasta noodles and black pepper are the staple ingredients in this dish. The reason it is such a classic dish is because the ingredients required have a very long shelf life. It is so simple to make and is so classic, it is sure to impress even the pickiest eaters. Consider this pasta dish a fancy adult macaroni & cheese… and who doesn’t love a good bowl of Mac & cheese?
The key ingredients for Cacio e Pepe.
Cacio e Pepe has 3 main ingredients- pasta, cheese and pepper. Oh, and pasta water. I prefer to add some kind of butter or oil. Ghee is such a wonderful option when creating this dish. My favorite ghee is the Fourth and Heart pink salt ghee. It is the perfect healthy addition in this dish!
Do I have to use fresh grated cheese?
It is SO important to use only fresh grated cheese in this dish. In order to successfully create a creamy sauce, the cheese must be finely shredded. If you choose to use pre shredded cheese, then it will clump and not melt evenly.
I recommend a blend of high quality, fresh Pecorino Romano and Parmesan cheese for this dish. Both of them paired together creates a sauce that is sure to melt evenly and give you a delicious, five star meal on the table in under 20 minutes.
Fancy it up.
Traditionally, this dish is created with only Pecorino and pepper. This dish is perfect just the way it is. But sometimes I like to get crazy and add additional ingredients to create some variation and color.
Red pepper flakes – We love spicy anything over in this house. The more spice, the better! Adding a variation of pepper gives the dish a really nice kick!
Fresh garlic and lemon – Add a couple cloves of fresh minced garlic in your pan with some ghee while you’re tossing your pasta. Make this dish a little lighter by adding a squeeze of fresh lemon!
Fresh herbs – I have a dedicated love to cooking with fresh herbs whenever I can! Fresh basil, parsley or even rosemary would add a nice touch to this dish. Everything looks better with a garnish!
Protein – Add some grilled chicken, steak, shrimp, crispy tofu or even some bacon in this dish for some extra protein! A lemon flavored salmon would be delicious, too. I also love to add some crushed up toasted pine nuts or walnuts on top for a little crunch.
Vegetables – Add some sauteed broccoli, cauliflower or asparagus to add some extra nutrients to your pasta. At the last minute, you can stir in some kale or spinach and immediately serve.
What kind of wine should I pair with Cacio e Pepe?
If you’re a red wine drinker, a dark rich Cabernet Sauvignon is perfect alongside this dish. Or if you prefer white, a buttery Sauvignon Blanc balances just beautifully. If you’re not a wine drinker at all, I recommend having a glass of sparkling water to accompany this dish.
What if I have leftovers?
It’s not likely, considering this dish is so tasty! However, if you have leftovers, store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4-5 days. Heat it up in a warm skillet and add a tablespoon or two of water and toss consistently until the sauce is creamy and warm again.
Creamy, Cacio e Pepe
- ½ Cup Fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1 Cup Fresh grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 tbsp ghee I used Fourth & Heart Pink Salt
- 10 oz pasta I recommend a spaghetti, fettucine, tonnarelli or bucatini
- 1½ tbsp fresh cracked black pepper plus more to taste
- 1-1½ Cups pasta water keep this reserved after you drain your pasta
- Cook your pasta according to the package just until al dente.
- Using tongs, remove pasta from pot into a strainer. The reason I don't pour the pasta into the strainer is because we want to reserve the pasta water. The water is starchy and we may need a little more than 1 cup to create the sauce. DO NOT RINSE your pasta.
- Heat up a large pan on medium heat. I use a cast iron.
- Add 2 tablespoons of your ghee. Let it melt for a few seconds and add your pepper. Toast the pepper in the ghee for 1 minute.
- Add your pasta noodles to the pan and immediately add 1 cup of your pasta water.
- Add remaining ghee.
- Slowly add your cheeses while tossing quickly and consistently until you have a light creamy sauce.
- If you feel like you need a little more liquid, slowly add a tablespoon at a time of your pasta water.