CACIO E PEPE
While Cacio e Pepe is a tried-and-true Italian meal, it’s also a challenge to make it your own. An internet-enabled Italian mob will come after you with a pitchfork and colorful expletives when you try to change anything in Italy.
But I think I’ve come up with a clever workaround. The literal meaning of “cacio e pepe” is “cheese with pepper.” That said, why not use your imagination when it comes to the pepper component? This recipe utilizes black, white, and Sichuan peppercorns instead of only black peppercorns to create a spicy, slightly numbing combination.
That’s correct, by the way.
This cacio e pepe recipe has a full-bodied flavor that has a great East-meets-West vibe about it. In addition to the black and white peppercorns, the Sichuan peppercorns add a tingly numbness to the mouth that elevates the dish to a new level of intricacy.
I don’t want to brag too much about this dish, but it’s so good that you won’t even know it’s there. You’ll be in cheesy, peppery nirvana if you wait until each peppercorn does its thing. What’s more, it’s easy to put together, so there’s really no reason not to give it a whirl!
- 8 oz. dried spaghetti
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon of green and red Sichuan peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon of white peppercorns
- 1 cup of pecorino romano
- 1 cup of parmesan cheese
- 3/4 cup of pasta water
- Before you begin, prepare your spaghetti by following the package directions and seasoning the water with a generous amount of salt. It’s also a good idea to cook pasta for one minute less than the package directions call for.
- Put your peppercorns in a grinder after you’ve mixed them together. Pre-grinding with a spice mill or mortar and pestle is also an option. Just the right amount of coarseness and fineness is all that is needed.
- When your pasta is about 4 minutes from completion, add the olive oil to a skillet and heat over medium heat. All of the spaghetti should fit in the pan at once.
- Add around 2 teaspoons of your cracked peppercorn mixture to the oil (you can eyeball it). The oil should be infused with the flavor of the pepper by allowing it to sizzle.
- Set the heat to medium high and add 3/4 cup of the pasta cooking water to the oil and pepper combination. There’s a lot of water-on-oil action here, so exercise caution!
- Your pasta should be close to being al dente at this point. Add the pasta to the oil mixture in the skillet after it has been drained. Add the pecorino and parmesan and toss quickly. In the meantime, taste and adjust the amount of peppercorn combination according to your taste. This is your oyster, so to speak.
- In order to achieve a silky-smooth sauce, keep tossing and stirring the pasta until all the water has been absorbed and the cheese has completely melted. Add extra cheese and cracked pepper to taste and serve.