I have an obsession with all things Italian; the language, the people, the cities and –naturalmente– the food. It’s the kind of food that is very difficult to argue with. My 75-year-old grandfather appreciates a good spaghetti pomodoro just as much as my 18-month-old cousin, and I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who does not like pasta. Sure, its carb-tastic-ness is not particularly waistline-friendly, but good God, who can resist the steaming, fragrant allure of a hot dish of fresh pasta every once in a while? This is exactly why every time I visit Rome I simply resign myself to the idea of gaining a pound or two over the course of the trip, and you know what? TOTALLY. WORTH. IT.
My favorite Roman indulgence is the simple pasta dish cacio e pepe. It literally means “cheese and pepper,” and is, in my opinion, an ode to the wonderful simplicity of Italian cooking. The dish is not about any particularly fancy cooking skills (although some precision is required when making the sauce), but rather, like much of the food consumed across the Bel Paese, it is about the intrinsic quality and freshness of the few ingredients that go into it. But I cannot stress this enough. When the star ingredient is cheese, it is a crime to use anything but the absolute best quality of cheese you can get your hands on. It really makes all the difference with such a minimalist dish. And on a cold dreary day like this one, there is truly nothing better.
You will need:
- 250 grams pasta – you can use pretty much any shape. I made my own fresh linguine using a basic egg pasta recipe, see here from a previous post.
- 3-4 tbsp salted butter
- 1 tbsp freshly-cracked black pepper
- 1/2 cup grated Parmeggiano Reggiano
- 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
Boil the pasta in generously salted water until just slightly undercooked. Drain but reserve at least 1/2 cup of the pasta water for later. In the meantime, melt 2 tbsp butter in a large skillet. Add the cracked pepper and, over medium heat, toast for 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup of pasta water to skillet and heat until simmering. Once the liquid begins to simmer gently, add the pasta and 1-2 more tbsp butter. Over very low heat, add the Parmeggiano and stir constantly until melted. Remove from heat, add Pecorino, and continue stirring. Check that pasta is al dente, and serve warm.
Buon appetito i miei amori!
In good health,
* Photo credit bonappetit.com