Cacio e Pepe, like Carbonara, is recipe based on skill and simplicity. Its origins are very ancient and are supposedly rooted in the bucolic days of Roman shepherds tending to their flock during the time of the Roman Empire. The shepherds used the simple ingredients that they had and that would travel well; pasta, pecorino (sheep’s milk cheese) and black pepper (an easy to carry ingredient that doesn’t spoil). Despite the horrors that are seen on many cheap menus this dish like Carbonara should have no cream or butter in it. If it has cream or butter it is not a Cacio e Pepe; no paid card-carrying member of the Italian Republic would dare disgrace this dish with cream or butter! The ‘creaminess’ comes from the emulsion of the starchy pasta water and the grated pecorino and Parmesan.
In a pan next to the simmering pasta water pour finely grated pecorino, finely grated parmesan and crushed/ground black pepper. If you feel the need, gently toast the pepper before to bring out the flavour (one of our favourite twists to this recipe). Please only use freshly ground high quality pepper. We like proper Indian Malabar pepper because it is lovely and spicy; watch out for cheap imitations from other parts of the world. One other suggestion which we find essential is to get the cheese to room temperature to minimise the difference in temperature between it and the pasta; this will encourage a gentle and easy melting process.
The magic of the creaminess of Cacio e Pepe relies on a few key factors; the temperature of the cheese being room temperature and the temperature of the pasta water that is added must be just right. It must not be too hot or else you will end up with clumpy messes of cheese and it must not be too cold where the melt doesn’t occur. This is a ‘Goldilocks’ problem – not too hot, not too cold, but rather just right! Some seasoned pros actually whisk the water and cheese mixture before adding to the pasta. This phased method is a perfectly acceptable solution and if this is your first time, you might have a go doing it this way because it is easier than trying to do everything at once. The alternative is to mix the water, cheese, pepper and pasta all together and vigorously toss and beat the ingredients as you keep adding the cheese.
Ultimately, no Cacio e Pepe is exactly the same. Your first go you are likely to make a few mistakes. The good news that basically no matter what you do it will taste great; who doesn’t like pasta, cheese and pepper? You may not get it exactly as you want immediately, but it will be delicious and you know how the saying goes: How does one get to Carnegie Hall? – the answer is always practice, practice, practice.
If you do need any help. Please drop us a line and we will absolutely walk you through or point you to some videos that we find helpful. Good luck and Buon Appetito!
How to prepare our tonnarelli cacio e pepe
- In a pan crack 1-2 tablespoons of black pepper (High Quality Malabar Black Pepper is the best).
- Bring well salted water to a boil in a separate pot and cook the pasta for 2-3 minutes (please note that the pasta should not be completely cooked as we will finish it in the pepper and cheese pan)
- Heat the pan with the pepper on high for 30 seconds so that you can smell the pepper but do not burn
- In a separate bowl put 60g of Pecorino and 60g of Parmesan add 2-3 tablespoons of boiling starchy pasta water and mix vigorously
- Put cheesy mixture into the pepper pan and put on low to medium heat so as to not burn the mixture but enough heat to eliminate clumping
- Transfer the pasta over to the cheesy pepper pan with 30 seconds to 1 minute left on the cook time and stir vigorously so as to coat the pasta – do this on low or medium heat
- Plate and garnish with additional Parmesan.
Please note: The Picture shown is for illustration purpose only. You will receive Fresh Pasta, sauces and Parmesan Cheese to cook in your kitchen.
- Keep refrigerated below 5C.
- Once opened consume within 3 days.
- Pasta suitable for Freezing. Freeze on day of purchase and consume within 1 month, cook from frozen.