I met my best friend Ginger in college when she pledged my sorority and after talking to her I discovered our families lived on the same street and she had been at my senior prom. How we never met until college, I will never know but I’m glad we did. After college, we both moved back to Memphis and are closer than ever. Last year, we combined our love of travel and pasta and took our first trip to Italy with our husbands. We couldn’t stop eating pasta the entire time we were there but when we were in Rome, we discovered a local staple and the pasta that Ginger would beg me to make when we got home: Cacio e Pepe. To me, this dish screams “italian,” not because it’s pasta and not because it’s delicious but because it’s simple. The one thing about Italian cooking I’ve learned: their ingredient list isn’t always long but their quality of ingredients and skill in the kitchen is long-lived and what makes their food some of the best in the world. Cacio e Pepe is one of those dishes - With only 5 ingredients, you could call it a simple dish but timing and detail is everything when making this pasta.
Grocery list (4 servings):
8 oz block Parmesan cheese
8 oz block Pecorino Romano cheese
1 lb good quality Bucatini or Spaghetti
2 tsp or to taste freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Make the Parmesan crisps by freshly grating the parmesan cheese, then on a silicone lined baking sheet, pour ¼ of the grated cheese onto the silicone mat and lightly press down. Do this 3 more times, making sure there's at least ½ inch between each circle, until you have 4 parmesan circles. Bake for about 4 minutes or until crisp and light golden. Let cool, then using a spatula, lightly lift the crisps from the mat, being careful not to break them. Set aside until ready to serve.
Grate the Pecorino cheese and set aside. Bring a heavily salted pot of water to a boil. Boil the pasta according to the directions on the package or until al dente. This is very important-- pasta needs to be cooked through but have a firm bite to it. You can only get this perfect by closely watching the pasta and testing a noddle at a time until it’s ready. A good quality pasta will will usually take 11 to 13 minutes.
When the pasta is almost done, heat a large microwave proof bowl until warm to the touch. When the pasta is perfectly al dente, using tongs, place it directly into the bowl from the boiling water. Don’t be worried about getting water into the bowl, you will need it to create the sauce. Slowly add Pecorino cheese and a little pasta water to the pasta, vigorously stirring everything together until the cheese melts and it creates a creamy sauce. If the sauce seems to dry, add more pasta water. It’s important to not drain your pasta water until the sauce is the perfect creamy consistency.
* Don't add the cheese too quickly or it will clump rather than cream.
Add black pepper, toss one last time. Serve on plates and garnish with parmesan crisps and more fresh ground pepper
CHEERS TO HAPPY EATING!!!