On a recent trip to Paris, I almost didn’t stay at one of my shortlisted hotels – Hotel National des Arts & Métiers – because it had an in-house Italian restaurant. Why go all the way to Paris just to eat food from Italy, I asked?
The answer to this question is simple: because food from Italy is bloody delicious, even when eaten in the wrong country. And this super simple Cacio e Pepe is no exception.
Cacio e Pepe
The easiest of recipes to master, you need only four key ingredients and fifteen minutes to get this on your plate. Originating in Roman cuisine and meaning literally ‘Cheese and Pepper’, Cacio e Pepe might be quick but to save a disaster the instructions need to be followed to the absolute letter. Fresh pasta should be used – this is no place for dried – and the nicest pecorino cheese you can get your hands on. The pasta water should be taken from the point of draining so it’s as starchy as possible and pepper cooked off with a little butter before the rest of the ingredients.
I add cream to my Cacio e Pepe but ‘proper’ Italians wouldn’t: as a British heathen I do prefer that touch of smoothness with the tanginess of the pecorino, but feel free to omit this step if you’d prefer to be slightly more authentic.
And if you are worried about the fact our Parisian culinary adventures were too unadventurous? We may have chowed down on this pasta dish twice but we also had more than our fill of fresh pain, poissan, croissant et Bourguignon. Food in France, whether French or Italian: c’est tres Magnifique!
Cacio e Pepe
- 250 grams fresh pasta
- 3 handfuls grated pecorino
- 2 tablespoons double cream
- good twists fresh black pepper
- sea salt
You'll have to move quickly on this recipe once it gets going so make sure you have everything ready to go when you start. Grate your pecorino and have everything else to hand.
Start by bringing a wide and shallow pot of water with a good pinch of sea salt to the boil. You want just enough water in the pan to cover the pasta at a nice rolling boil.
Add your pasta to the pan and cook for the time specified on the pack (it won't be long). Once this is done, reserve a cup of the pasta water and drain.
Melt a knob of butter in another wide-rimmed pan and twist some good grinds of black pepper in. Cook on a medium heat for a couple of minutes.
Add the pasta water to the pan along with the pecorino and whisk well until all dissolved, about 4 minutes. Add the pasta and stir well til all incorporated.
If using, spoon the double cream in and again stir well. Serve immediately with some extra parmesan on top, if you fancy. YUM!