Along with Carbonara and Amatriciana, cacio e pepe is another Roman classic. This dish has barely any ingredients and is devilishly hard to make despite the deceptively simple recipe. It was a dish used by travellers because the ingredients were easy to carry and need no refrigeration. Although now we use dried pasta, in the 1800’s pasta was fried and then taken on journeys where it would last the trip. The ‘cacio’ or cheese part is made up of pecorino romano, widely produced all over Lazio. The other is black pepper, not only a widespread spice but also a way to warm evenings on the road and ward off the cold. Roma Sparita – (an excellent restaurant in the quieter area of Trastevere) does a spectacular version of this dish with ‘tonnarelli’ or cube shaped spaghetti served in a bowl made up entirely of molten pecorino. A must while in Rome!
The ingredients listed here are in doses per single person:
– 80 gr of pasta (fresh tonnarelli are traditional)
– 40 gr of pecorino romano
– abundant freshly ground black pepper
The trick with the cacio e pepe is to create a blend of grated pecorino romano and pepper in a wide bowl. Meanwhile set water to boil and salt slightly. Once the pasta is ready and al dente, lift (do not DRAIN in a colander) into the bowl and start mixing vigorously while adding 4 tablespoons of cooking water to the bowl. Once the creamy texture has been achieved, the pasta is ready to serve!
Absolutely do not mix the pasta with the cheese in the pan itself as the cheese will coagulate and stick to the bottom of the pan, creating a watery mess enough to make any Roman shiver in disgust!
Good luck and buon appetito!