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Cacio e Pepe

4 Servings

35 minutes

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In Rome, home of cacio e pepe, six chefs and cooks each taught us their method for making the pasta classic, and once back in the Milk Street kitchen, we got to work devising our own formula. We quickly learned that the variety of pasta—as well as how you harness its starch—are key to achieving the subtly creamy sauce that’s really more a cheesy, clingy coating. Bronze-cut spaghetti is essential. This type of pasta is extruded through a bronze die that leave the noodles with a rough, floury appearance instead of the smooth, sleek sheen of less expensive pastas extruded through nonstick die. (Widely available DeCecco is “bronze drawn” and works in this recipe, as do premium brands such as Rustichella d’Abruzzo.) By using an unconventional method of starting bronze-cut pasta in a minimal amount of room temperature water in a skillet, then using that starchy water as the basis for the “sauce,” we were able to attain the perfect consistency. (Bonus: this technique requires only one pan.) As for the cheeses—we landed on equal parts nutty Parmesan and sharp, funky pecorino. The cheeses must be finely grated so they readily melt; use the fine holes of box grater or a wand-style grater, or cut the cheese into chunks and grind them together in a food processor. Lastly, toasting the pepper before coarsely grinding it enhances its flavor and aroma. Adding some of the pepper along with a couple tablespoons of grated cheese to the pasta water deeply seasons the noodles. This also results in a more velvety finish. Once made, cacio e pepe doesn’t hold well, so make sure serving bowls and forks are at hand. If you can, warm the bowls in advance so the pasta better retains its creaminess once plated.

4

Servings

Tip

Don’t try to cook a full pound of pasta; it won’t fit comfortably in the skillet and will throw off the flavor, texture and timing. Twelve ounces is the ideal amount. Some brands of pasta take longer to cook than others and absorb more moisture; if the amount of water in the pan looks too scant to cook the spaghetti until just shy of al dente, add another ½ cup water. On the other hand, if there is still a generous amount of liquid in the pan when the pasta is just shy of al dente, go ahead with the addition of cheese. Cooking for a minute or two after all the cheese has been melted in will “tighten up” the consistency.

35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1

    tablespoon whole black peppercorns

  • 2

    ounces pecorino Romano (without rind), finely grated (1 cup)

Directions

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