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Cacio e Pepe (December 2023)

Not sure how this recipe even entered my purview recently, but I’m quite glad that it did. This dish has an astounding ratio of tastiness to complexity – only a few ingredients and a few steps are required to create something that tastes as if blessed by St. Lawrence himself.

Each ingredient is celebrated in this dish. The pasta stands unbedecked; the pepper is toasted and popping with flavor; the cheese reminds you of the good in the world.

I followed this recipe from bon appetit. Truthfully, I eschewed the pecorino entirely since I forgot to purchase it at the store. Instead of replacing this with extra parmesan, I simply reduced the amount of cheese, and yet I still found the dish to be incredibly rich and the sauce quite creamy.



The only tedious part of this recipe, and I don’t mean to reduce in your mind the effort required by the isolation of this tedium, is the grating of the cheese. It may be worthwhile for you to get the cheese out of the fridge a few minutes before you begin cooking so it may have softened a bit and is more pliable to the blades of your grater. Additionally, use a good sized grater and a generous whole size that makes for an easier time of your work. Grating the cheese is quite repetitive. Finally, I personally prefer measuring my ingredients by their mass. I have found that ~70-75g of parmesan cheese is plenty to complement the portion prepared by the above recipe.

For the cooking of the pasta, I cooked to two minutes short of al dente in the pot itself. I then placed a colander on top of a large bowl inside of the sink, situated in such a way that I could pour the whole contents of the boiling pot into the colander, separating the water and the pasta while still retaining the pasta water.

Take note that the pepper will be toasted in the pan very quickly and it is easy to burn. By virtue of the pan being heated sufficiently to melt the better that has been thrown in, it will be hot enough to make the peppercorn pop without delay. You will want to be attentive (and not grating more cheese) during this interval, or you will quickly create a black smoke phantom in your kitchen.

Once you combine all the ingredients in the pan again, hold fast to your purpose and mix thoroughly with the tongs. Before your eyes, a brick of butter, a moss of cheese, and a stew of turbid pasta water will congeal into a delicious, stringy, creamy sauce that will melt your heart.