Monday was just one of those days.
It started off with a 4am wake up call to catch my flight back to San Francisco, after enjoying Thanksgiving with family in Seattle. The work day was filled with catch up work, the consequence we all accept for the short holiday week. Once I got home, I discovered that Comcast sent me a defective cable box for my TV. And to top it off, I was starving and it was already 9pm…#hangry.
Let’s just say that Monday was the perfect day for a comforting plate of pasta. Cacio e Pepe to be exact.
Cacio e Pepe, a Roman cheese and pepper pasta, is the epitome of simple fare and the poster child of my blog. It’s one of the reasons I love dishes that use a few, high-quality ingredients yet yield so much flavor. This Cacio e Pepe recipe takes less than 20 minutes to make and uses ingredients most people have in their pantry or refrigerator (or you will after reading this!). This is the kind of recipe that makes me believe that cooking from scratch is possible for even the busiest of people.
When I first heard about Cacio e Pepe, I just assumed you cooked some spaghetti, drizzled some olive oil on top, and added some grated cheese and black pepper. Sounds good, right? While that’s still probably tasty, it’s certainly not Cacio e Pepe. Though the sauce ingredients are basic – Pecorino and Parmigiano cheeses, butter, olive oil, salt and pepper – it’s the process that really makes the flavors meld together and form a cohesive pasta dish. For example, heating the freshly ground pepper in the olive oil and butter unlocks the woody, smoky flavor of the peppercorns. Also, using the starchy pasta water to create the sauce is key to ensure that the pasta is evenly coated with the cheese and pepper. You can use any long spaghetti-like pasta; I prefer to use bucatini (it’s like a thicker spaghetti with a hole), because the buttery sauce can coat the inside of the pasta too.
Even on my hectic Monday evening, I was able to sit down and enjoy with my newfound comfort food. Like, really enjoy it. I was actually planning to squeeze in a quick photo shoot for the blog that night, but my picture perfect plate of food disappeared right before my eyes. So, I had to make it again this week. But with a dish this fast and simple, it’s no sweat.
What’s your favorite quick pasta dish? Have you tried this recipe? Leave a comment below!
- ½ lb bucatini or spaghetti
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for garnish
- ¼ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain pasta.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and butter.
- Once oil and butter are hot and the butter has turned golden, add black pepper and stir. Let cook for another 1-2 minutes.
- Pour ½ cup of pasta water to skillet. Be careful as it will initially splatter.
- Increase the heat to medium-high, and bring the sauce to a boil, about 1-2 minutes.
- Add pasta to the skillet and use tongs to toss constantly in the sauce.
- Gradually sprinkle in Pecorino and Parmigiano cheeses, while continuing to toss the pasta to ensure the cheese doesn't clump. If necessary, add more pasta water to loosen the sauce. Add salt to taste.
- Garnish with grated Pecorino and serve immediately.