Say Cheese! How to Make Authentic Cacio e Pepe Pasta

Cacio e pepe, italian cheese and pepper pasta top view

Humble yet classy, creamy yet flavourful, Cacio e Pepe is a favourite pasta dish amongst Italians who want homemade comfort – stat. Cacio e pepe translates as ‘cheese and pepper’ and for such an authentic dish it’s surprisingly easy to prepare. Follow a few simple steps and you’ll produce a delicious meal as good as any you’d get at a restaurant – in fact, we’d wager even better!

This classic recipe makes the most out of a few simple, cupboard ingredients. Because Cacio e Pepe is notoriously creamy, a common misconception is that you need cream or butter to get it to the desired consistency – but you don’t. You don’t even need olive oil! In fact, all that’s required for a beautiful Cacio e Pepe is pasta, cheese (ideally percornio romano) a good helping of pepper, and of course, the right method. Easy to make once you know how, this comforting pasta dish has become a true staple of Italian cuisine.

Cooking up a storm: making cacio e Pepe

PSST! Want to try your hand cooking pasta with an Italian Chef? Then take a look at our Pasta making classes in Rome and Florence where you can get hands on with tips and tricks from an expert!

Walks of Italy

Humble beginnings

With origins dating all the way from Ancient Rome, the humble Cacio e Pepe is one of Italy’s oldest pasta dishes. Because of its longevity, percornio romano used to be carried by Roman Legionaries as part of their supplied rations for longer journeys. Shepherd’s took up the practice, carrying it on their long stints where they camped on the mountains to watch their flock. In need of a simple yet filling meal, they began taking dried pasta (specifically tonnarelli) with them and with the addition of water they were able to whip up a feast. And so, the classic cacio e pepe was born!

History buff? Take a look at: 5 Fascinating Podcasts about Ancient Rome

Making tonnarelli cacio e pepe with Simona

Pasta perfect! Our classic cacio e pepe recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (or 100g) percornio romano
  • 1 ½ cups (or 200g) flour
  • 2 medium eggs
  • Fresh black pepper

Step-by-step instructions:

  • Pour the flour onto a stable surface, such as a chopping board or marble worktop. (You could also do this in a bowl if you prefer a more controlled environment)
  • Add two eggs and combine them with the flour, forming a firm but malleable dough. Knead for approximately two minutes making sure the eggs and flour are fully mixed, then place the dough in the fridge
  • After giving the dough 20 minutes to rest, sprinkle a generous amount of flour onto your surface, then begin rolling the dough out evenly with a rolling pin. Roll until you have a sheet large enough to fold over itself evenly
  • After you’ve folded it once, roll it out again into a large rectangle and begin folding the dough over itself until the layers form a loose ‘S’ shape. This will be about 3-4 times depending on how thick the dough is after rolling
  • Cut the dough vertically (starting at the furthest edge) to make long spaghetti shaped strands
  • Next, cook the pasta in a pot with a sprinkle of salt for three minutes or until nicely al dente
  • Grate the percornio and add it to a (separate) frying pan with some grated pepper. Add half a ladle of water from the cooked pasta to the pan and simmer on a low heat. It’s important you use the water used to cook the pasta as this is what helps form the sauce in the next step
  • Mix the cheese and water until you get a creamy consistency. If it’s too lumpy you can add more of the pasta water, but be careful not to add too much – you don’t want it to become too runny. We’re aiming for a silky smooth consistency, so be prepared to add a little elbow grease!
  • Drain the pasta and add it to the pan, stirring until the pasta is coated in the cheesy sauce
  • Once mixed, the pasta is ready to serve. Add some tossed greens on the side for a fresh and filling meal!

You might also enjoy: A guide to Authentic Italian Risotto

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