Cacio e Pepe

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Utterly simple yet supremely satisfying, Cacio e Pepe is  the quintessential pasta dish from Roman cuisine. “Cacio e Pepe” means “cheese and pepper”.  Because the recipe is so elemental, it depends on using only three highest-quality ingredients possible. As the name suggests, the ingredients of the dish are very simple and include only black pepper, Pecorino Romano cheese, and pasta such as a long, thin spaghetti like tonnarelli or vermicelli.  A true cacio e pepe recipe does not needs any oil, cream or butter.

The cacio e pepe recipe is one of the most ancient Italian dishes. The legend of this recipe dates back to the days of  the Roman Empire. For centuries, cacio e pepe has been the perfect meal of the Roman shepherds. Dried pasta, aged pecorino and black peppers are easy-to-carry ingredient and hard to spoil.

One of the things I learned  from experienced cooks is that the most difficult recipes are the simply ones – the ones with less  ingredients.

If you were to watch a practiced hand make cacio e pepe, you might think the instructions were as simple as this: Cook spaghetti and drain. Toss with grated Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper. Serve. But we all know that the simplest recipes can often be the most confounding, and so it is with cacio e pepe. The most important steps to be taken in preparing this dish is to leave some of the hot cooking water with the pasta and speed: If the water cools before melting the cheese, the sauce will clump.The heat melts the cheese, while the starches in the water help bind the pepper and cheese to the pasta, creating a creamy, emulsified sauce that coats each strand of spaghetti with flavor.

Serves 4 to 6
Ingredients:
Sea salt
1 pound spaghetti or tonnarelli
2 1/2 cups finely grated Pecorino Romano

4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

Directions:
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Salt the water. When the salt has dissolved, add the pasta and cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of the Pecorino Romano, the pepper, and a small ladle of pasta cooking water. Using the back of a large wooden spoon, mix vigorously and quickly to form a paste.

When the pasta is cooked, use a large strainer to remove it from the cooking water and quickly add it to the sauce in the bowl, keeping the cooking water boiling on the stove. Toss vigorously, adjusting with additional hot water a tablespoon or two at a time as necessary to melt the cheese and to obtain a creamy sauce that completely coats the pasta.

Plate and sprinkle each portion with some of the remaining Pecorino Romano and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Cook’s Notes:
And if you really want the full Roman traditional experience of eating cacio e pepe, make a crispy Parmesan bowl. Simply spread 3/4 cup Parmesan in a thin layer on the bottom of a non-stick saucepan and cook for three minutes, or until it becomes pliable. Remove the cheese sheet from the pan with a spatula and use a ramekin or small bowl to mold it.Arrange the cacio e pepe in its cheese cradle and top with more cheese.

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Wild Mushrooms and Cheese on Toast Points

Summertime eating is all about fresh and light fare. Here is an easy meal to prepared in less than 20 minutes and is perfect for those “Meatless Monday Meals”. Enjoy!

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PREP TIME:            5 Minutes
COOKING TIME: 10 Minutes
TOTAL TIME:        20 Minutes
Serves 6

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
1 pound button or wild mushrooms (i.e. porcini, cremini,
Shitake and  oyster) stems removed and chopped
1/4 cup  white wine
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon  ground black pepper
24 small (1/2 inch thick) slices country style bread (i.e..
ciabatta, French, Italian, focaccia), cut into triangles, toasted
1/4 pound provolone cheese, thinly sliced into strips
1/4 pound Havarti cheese, thinly sliced into strips
2 Tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh basil, chopped
1/8 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toast the bread until golden brown and remove from the oven and set aside.

2. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat.

3. Saute onions, until translucent.

4. Add chopped mushrooms and saute 3-4 minutes.

5. Add wine and increase heat to high and cook stirring until liquid has evaporated (5 minutes).

6. Add thyme, salt and pepper.

7. Add cheese to the skillet and stir until slightly melted.

8. To serve, top each slice of bread with mushroom and cheese mixture. Sprinkle with parsley and basil.

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