A deliciously simple Roman dish, cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper) is one of the best.
This presentation (right) was inspired by my memories of the restaurant Roma Sparita, located in Rome's Trastevere, a few years back. I loved the dish so much that I returned home from Italy with nearly a quarter wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano from a local cheesemonger stowed away in my suitcase (yes, they let me keep it).
For my txoko’s theme this August, we’ve been experimenting with cuisine across Italy. The most recent Cooking with Friends led us to Cacio e pepe, making the tonnarelli egg noodle by hand, and making sure to use Pecorino Romano (sheep’s milk) and not Parmigiano-Reggiano (because that’s cows milk from Parma, folks, and this is a Roman dish). Be sure to reserve that salty pasta water to create that creamy finish!
Here's how to create this beauty:
3 eggs, room temperature
2 cups flour
room temperature water
2 tbsp sea salt
1.5 cups pecorino romano, freshly grated
2 tbsp freshly cracked black pepper
Cacio e pepe
Sift flour into a mountain, and create a well or crater in the center
Add eggs and 2 tbsp water into the well
Using a fork, break the yolks and work form the inside out, slowly incorporating a bit of flour with each swirl until fully blended
Knead through the shaggy stage, and add more water if the dough is too dry and more flour if too sticky. The dough should start to form a ball, and no longer stick to your fingers
Divide the dough in half. Roll out the half to 1/4" thickness, dust generously with semolina and fold into thirds like a letter
Slice into 1/ 8" pieces of noodles. Unfold and slightly pull each noodle taught. Generously dust in semolina. You should be able to make 4 nests from this recipe.
Heat pot of water, with 2 tbsp of salt, to a boil. Place two nests in the pot and cook for 3-4 minutes until al dente. Reserve 1 cup hot salty pasta water, before draining.
In a large bowl, add drained pasta, piping hot salty past water, pecorino romano, and 1 tbsp black pepper. Using tongs, stir vigorously until a creamy sauce begins to form.
Plate and serve.