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How to make Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe like a Roman

Cacio-e-Pepe-7

It took me years to make a decent Cacio e Pepe, one of Rome’s traditional pasta dishes (the others are Carbonara, Matriciana, and Gricia).

Since Cacio e Pepe has only three main ingredients -Pecorino Romano cheese, black pepper and pasta-, it might seem an easy recipe to make – but it isn’t.

One of the things I learned  from Italian cooks is that the most difficult recipes are the simply ones – the ones with less  ingredients. For example,  if you want  to cook a superb Pasta al Pomodoro, you need to get high quality tomatoes –and choose the right type like San Marzano- , otherwise you will end up with a soggy sauce.  Also, to get the right consistency, cooking time  is crucial to let excess water evaporate from the sauce.

As regards to Cacio e Pepe, the quality of ingredients, quantities and timing must be considered to get good results. But first, let me get something straight –  Cacio e Pepe does NOT  have:

  • Heavy cream
  •  Any vegetable oil
  • Butter
  • Margarine
  • Milk
  • Parmigiano Reggiano

So how come it has that creamy consistency ? See the recipe below…

Parte 1

Parte 2

Ingredients

  • 400 grams of Spaghetti (if you can find Tonnarelli better)
  • About 200-250 grams of high quality Pecorino Romano cheese (the more aged the better)
  • Black pepper to taste (better if freshly ground)
  • Coarse salt (yes you will need some even though Pecorino Romano has lots of salt, otherwise the dish will be bland)

Method

  1. Grate Pecorino Romano cheese.
  2. In the meantime bring water to a boil in a tall pot.  The level of water should not exceed ¾ of the pot’s height. Keep in mind that for 100 grs of pasta, you should use 10 grs of salt and 1 liter of water.
  3. When water boils, add salt. Consider that Pecorino Romano cheese is very salty, therefore, my advice is to add HALF of the amount of salt for cooking Cacio e Pepe.
  4. Add pasta and cook al dente.
  5. 1-2 minutes before pasta is cooked, place a serving bowl on top of the pot to heat it. This is a very important step in order to get a creamy sauce.
  6. Reserve some pasta water using a ladle. While you’re boiling spaghetti, the pasta releases starch into the water.  Since starch is naturally sticky, it helps Pecorino Romano cheese fats to amalgamate well with both water and pasta.
  7. Drain pasta and transfer it to the heated serving bowl.
  8. Gradually add Pecorino Romano cheese and water tossing vigorously until you get a creamy consistency.
  9. If the sauce becomes too watery, add Pecorino Romano cheese; if it becomes too dry, add water.
  10. Season with lots of freshly ground black pepper and toss.

Serves 4

Cacio e Pepe 4

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48 Comments Post a comment
  1. Looks delicious!

    March 4, 2013
  2. Very yummy! well done …

    March 4, 2013
  3. Absolutely tasty looking!

    March 4, 2013
  4. Reblogged this on EDIBLE VINE and commented:
    This is a must try!! I cannot wait

    March 4, 2013
  5. Oftentimes the simple dishes are easiest to get wrong. One can notice a mistake far easier. A well-made dish of cacio e pepe is a thing of beauty and, Ambrosiana, you certainly did achieve that. The serving in your photo looks perfect! All that’s missing is its intoxicating aroma. Brava!

    March 5, 2013
  6. carmen1005 #

    HOLA GISITA, VOY A PROBAR ESTA RECETA Y TE AVISO!!!

    ________________________________

    March 5, 2013
  7. My father loves this dish and I never really understood it (probably becuase I didn’t know how to make it!). Now I can give it a go…your shots are beautiful.

    March 6, 2013
  8. That is fantastic. I love the detail in your pasta recipes. I’ve always remembered the lessons that you taught me here. The first picture is really cool. Nice one.

    March 6, 2013
  9. Lovely photos of such a simple but delicious pasta dish.

    March 8, 2013
  10. Tiene una pinta buenísima Ambrosiana. Lo voy a probar a hacer en casa :)

    March 9, 2013
  11. Now, this i love, you have shared with us some excellent tips, the heated bowl especially, i do have some very good cheese in the fridge too, just waiting for this dinner.. c

    March 10, 2013
  12. Oh, my gosh this looks decadent and filled with butter and cream!! What a fantastic illusion.. I can’t wait to try.. :D

    March 18, 2013
  13. Brings back wonderful memories of our trip to Rome!

    March 24, 2013
  14. Babi #

    Gisi despues de probarlo lo hare aqui en casa, te aviso como me queda Babi

    May 21, 2013
  15. holy delicious cow, batman! that looks amazing! i love pasta of all types so this looks right up my alley.

    May 23, 2013
  16. This is absolutely gorgeous! I can’t wait to make this. It just looks like pasta heaven.

    May 23, 2013
  17. this looks amazing! I agree, the less ingredients, the more difficult to make perfect. I think I will give it a try though!

    – Jaime

    May 31, 2013
  18. Seems to me the fewer the ingredients, the more difficult to get it ‘just right’! The thing is, you’ve had the time to refine your tastebuds as well as experiment – lucky us! :)

    June 5, 2013
  19. Dario #

    This is a fantastic dish a must have at Roma Sparita in Trastevere/Roma, mentioned to our friends, DO NOT MISS THIS.

    June 5, 2013
  20. reskaggs #

    Just made this, per instructions. Sooo delicious!! I was eating it out of the bowl before it reached the table! Also, just a note: I reserved quite a bit of the pasta water, and was glad I did, since it took more liquid than I expected.

    June 27, 2013
  21. Sarvi #

    I was not able to achieve a sauce — I made half the recipe and reserved about 3/4 cup of pasta water — any suggestions? Maybe I should have reserved more water? Possibly, did I add the cheese too fast? It seemed the cheese was clumping rather than melting. Many thanks for any suggestions.

    July 20, 2013
    • Hi! First of all make you got good quality Pecorino Romano cheese. Also reserve enough pasta water (2 cups at least) to make sure you have enough for tossing pasta. Be sure to heat your mixing bowl, and that water is still hot. Don’t wait too long before spaghetti cools down. First add cheese and then pasta water, toss vigorously until you get a creamy consistency. Add more cheese if it is too watery; add pasta if it is too dry. Hope this helps!

      July 23, 2013
  22. Most of the of best places I had this in roma it was not this creamy, it was always pilled on fresh grated. This seems more like american melted mac and cheese. Nothing wrong with this, I dont want to be recipe police, but people shouldn’t worry about getting it this melted with adding water. If you use really fresh good pasta which is so important on this recipe it wont be dry, and if you get fresh cut pecorino, its not that dry either. I would assume that if you use dried out pecorino or dried pasta you might need to add water to make it creamier.

    September 9, 2013
    • Hi thanks for visiting my blog! Most of the best trattorias in Rome do serve Cacio e Pepe with a creamy sauce. Some trattorias do serve it with lots of grated Pecorino Romano Cheese. Water is always used either with dry pasta (packaged spaghetti), or Tonnarelli (fresh pasta), so it doesn’t matter. As far as the quality of Pecorino Romano, the aged the cheese, the better. Here is a link of Felice in Testaccio, voted by Romans as the best Cacio e Pepe in Rome.You could see that their Cacio e Pepe is creamy. http://www.feliceatestaccio.it/menu.html

      September 9, 2013
      • Vinay #

        I like your response, and more than that your blog.

        Using a bit of starchy water to help with adhesion is a great tip which makes a huge difference in most all of the pasta dishes i make. It is only after I learned this method that I felt confident in my ability to make a great pasta.

        It is unfortunate that most people are not aware of this (including myself up until a few years ago).

        February 6, 2014
  23. Sara #

    this looks perfect! Just like the ones I had in Rome! They were all so creamy but I knew they must not have cream in them so I’ve been trying to find just the right recipe and this looks to be it. Thanks! Also, one of the trattorias we ate at added in a bit of pink peppercorns and it added a whole new layer to the dish, worth a try sometime!

    September 19, 2013
  24. AK #

    HI – thanks for the recipe! One question: why heat up a serving bowl as opposed to using the pot we boil the water in? It will remain hot, won’t it? Or is there something I’m missing?

    November 2, 2013
    • Hi!! using the pot is also a valid alternative. Just make sure to not overcook spaghetti on the pot. Thanks for stopping by,

      November 4, 2013
  25. I wrote a comment a couple weeks ago saying this dish looked great and decided to make this recipe over the weekend. I fell in love! So delicious. I cannot believe how 3 simple ingredients can make such a rich dish. Thank you again for sharing

    November 4, 2013
    • Hello!! I am glad you gave it a try and it turned out well.! Thank you!!!!!!!!

      November 4, 2013
  26. I have had Cacio e pepe over all sorts of pasta in Italy and it is one of my favourite pasta dishes. Like you said, it is difficult to make it well. I certainly have to train a bit more before I blog about it. I will certainly follow your precious advice and try this again soon!

    January 19, 2014
    • Hello! As I said at the beginning of my post, it takes time to perfect the dish. You have to try different pasta formats and brands (I personally use pasta di Gragnano’s Spaghetti alla chitarra) before you get it right.I also try to find the best Pecorino Romano I can get. As far as water quantity it all depends on the quality of cheese and pasta. Once you find the pasta and Pecorino Romano type that works best for you, try to be consistent and always use these when you make Cacio e Pepe!

      January 21, 2014

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