I heard about this dish almost a year ago, and I was immediately intrigued. It was allegedly the first pasta sauce, but who knows? I tried finding an article verifying this claim–and certainly they exist. But then the Wall Street Journal comes along and says cacio e pepe didn’t really appear until the mid 20th century.
It has so few ingredients it’s almost intimidating. You know it’s all going to be about skills. But it is true comfort food. The only times I ever have made or have had this dish have been days when I really have needed comfort.
The first time I made cacio e pepe was when I was snowed in January in the BRCM. “Snowed in” in the south is a weird concept, but the streets were icy and unplowed, work was cancelled and you couldn’t even get to a grocery store. I was stressed–it was in the middle of job app time, and I was trying very hard NOT to think of my employment prospects. My little rental house had no insulation under the flooring, so I was wearing three pairs of fuzzy socks. I invited an eating buddy over (who hadn’t had my forethought in going to grocery stores before this fiasco) and I made us this and a steak.
The second time I made this dish was in late July when my mom got sick. My mother’s best friend had driven with me through the night to see my mom in the hospital. The first dinner back at the house was so weird. The dog knew something was wrong and just couldn’t figure it out. My father and I just were going through the motions. All of us were exhausted. I was scared. It was quiet in the house, and not in any kind of good way; there was a definite disturbance in our force. And so I made comfort food.
Those were the only two times I made the dish. But my father–who notoriously isn’t a fan of twirly pasta or pasta sauces–actually got hooked. Probably because of the technique involved. The man loves any dish that involves and/or shows off cooking technique. He apparently made it multiple times after my mom got home.
The third time I had this dish my father made it for me, and it was very recently. A first term at a new college always is tiring–especially when you throw in a major move, and a family emergency, and various other events. In the week before finals I had to live in Chicago and deal with the students dealing with the Cubs winning the world series and Hillary losing the election. By the time the term was over and I was back home, I was feeling beat up and in need of comfort food. So my father made me this and it hit the spot.
The photos for the step-by-step instructions were of this third time. So it is my father’s hands that you see and my folks’ kitchen. This dish tastes wonderful; however, it almost by construction is not one that “reheats well”. Enjoy!
CACIO E PEPE
- Fresh pasta (the longer and “twirlier”, the better)
- Fresh ground pepper
- Fresh parmesan, grated finely
- Cook the pasta in a pot of salted water.
- In a separate pan, slowly heat the parmesan and the pepper. Whisk constantly while slowly adding portions of the pasta water to the pan.
- When the pasta is done, transfer immediately to the pan, and toss in the sauce.
- Once the sauce is incorporated, serve immediately. Garnish with additional cheese and pepper.