Cacio e Pepe

A sauce made of high quality old cheese, stone grinded black pepper and some cooking water… Sounds like a simple dish, but this sauce can become a disaster quite easy! If you prepare it the right way however, it will reveal all the beauty and aroma’s of the cheese and pepper.

cacio pepe

This is an ancient Roman recipe, originally made with Pecorino Romano cheese and eaten by the legions of Ceasar. The core of this sauce is the cooking water. The starch from the pasta in the water will become the “binder” of the sauce.

Since I live in Holland, and (very) good Pecorino Romano is almost impossible to find, I used the perennial cheese from Loverendale, called ”Zeelandkaas”. Although it’s not made of sheep-milk, it sure is a very good alternative to the spicey Pecorino Romano. Oh and by the way, Cacio is another Italian word for cheese, pepe of course means pepper.

Here’s how you make it, per person:

  • about 50-70 grams of cheese;
  • about 4-5 whole grains of black pepper;
  • A drizzle of extra vergin olive oil;
  • optional: a little lemon juice;
  • 100-150 grams of tagliatelle;
  • Focus.

The succes or failure of this recipe is in the way you make the sauce. If you mess up, the sauce will become chunky and big blocks of cheese will ruin your dish. Start by grating the cheese. Ground the pepper in a mortar. Add the grated cheese and grounded pepper to a big bowl. Cook the pasta with enough salt. After 5 minutes, add some table spoons of cooking water to the bowl with grated cheese and pepper. Stir with a whisk, make sure the sauce becomes liquid AND creamy. If it’s not liquid enough, add some more water, but be careful. Add some oil and stir until the sauce is smooth. Drain the pasta and scoop it through the sauce (in the bowl, not in the pan!). This has to be done very quick…

Buon appetito!