We are back from spring break and the cupboards are REALLY bare. So I thought of this ridiculously easy recipe for Cacio e Pepe. It literally means “cheese and pepper.” Think of this as a stripped-down mac and cheese.
It is among the most basic, simplest pastas there is, and it’s suddenly trendy to boot. Why? Because when made right, it is incredible. The secret is using the starchy pasta’s cooking water to create a creamy sauce that coats each strand.
If you’ve never tried it, cacio e pepe is one of the great pastas of Rome. In an episode of “No Reservations,” Chef Anthony Bourdain went so far as to say the dish “could be the greatest thing in the history of the world.” Ok, maybe he’s going a little too far, but in a pinch, it’s an easy dish to have in your repertoire. It’s also great to serve as a side for meats or fish.
- Kosher salt
- 6 oz. pasta bucatini, or spaghetti
- 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
- 1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
- ¾ cup finely grated Parmesan
- ½ cup finely grated Pecorino Romano
- Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a large stock pot. Season with salt. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain, reserving ¾ cup pasta cooking water.
- Meanwhile, melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add pepper and cook, swirling pan, until toasted, about 1 minute. Turn off heat until ready to finish.
- Add ½ cup reserved pasta water to skillet and bring to a simmer. Add pasta and remaining butter. Reduce heat to low and add Parmesean, stirring and tossing with tongs until melted. Next add Pecorino, stirring and tossing until cheese melts, sauce coats the pasta, and pasta is al dente. (Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry.) Transfer pasta to warm bowls and serve.