A Roman speciality – ‘cacio’ is the word used locally for Pecorino, the cheese used in this classic Italian recipe – cacio e pepe is effectively a dish of spaghetti with cheese and black pepper. Those simple ingredients don’t make it any less special – if anything this must surely be one of the dishes that proves why Italian cuisine is up there with master cuisines such as French and Chinese.
80g Pecorino cheese, freshly grated
3 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Cook the spaghetti in lots of boiling salted water to the timings on the packet. The spaghetti should be al dente.
2. When the spaghetti is cooked, drain it reserving a few tablespoons of the starch cooking water. Return the pasta to the saucepan, add the olive oil, grated Pecorino, the cooking water and lots of black pepper (you should see specks throughout the pasta). Toss well and serve immediately.
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It won’t be Cacio e Pepe but you can tweak this dish by adding fried pancetta or streaky bacon; and/or frozen peas which you have simmered briefly first in boiling water.
Again, it won’t be authentic but if you want to make a quick pasta dish using just spaghetti and cheese and only have Parmesan or Gruyère in the fridge use that instead of Pecorino – just don’t call it Cacio e Pepe!
We like to grate the cheese so that there are little nubbles of Parmesan in it, but you can grate it very finely if you prefer that. We use a food processor to grate the cheese if we want to keep some texture in it and a rasp grater to create a finer finish.
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