Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Pasta Cacio e Pepe (pasta with pecorino & black pepper)

Cacio means "cheese" in Italian and Pepe means black pepper. Cacio e Pepe is an Italian pasta dish that is perfect for one of those "nothing in the house to make for dinner" nights because a well-stocked pantry usually has pasta, salt, pepper, and cheese on-hand. The classic dish calls for only these four ingredients the addition of some pasta water to melt the cheese and help coat the pasta.

I have added butter and olive oil for the taste and texture but feel free to leave them out if you want the classic version. I also was inspired by the addition of greens that I first had in a restaurant in Italy many years ago. The arugula provides a peppery "bite" which is beautiful with the black pepper. A milder take includes baby spinach leaves.  Whatever ingredients you choose, Pasta Cacio e Pepe should become a staple in your cooking repertoire. It is just that good.  Happy Pasta Week!

Pasta Cacio e Pepe (pasta with pecorino & black pepper)
(serves 2)

8 oz fettuccine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, shredded, plus 1 tablespoon
sea salt
1 to 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
handful fresh baby arugula or baby spinach (optional)

Bring a large stockpot full of water to boil. Generously salt water and add the fettuccine. Cook according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water, then drain pasta.

Add butter and olive oil to stockpot (off heat). Quickly add cooked pasta, 1/2 cup cheese, a large pinch salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Stir to coat pasta and melt cheese. If the pasta seems dry add pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until creamy. 

Taste and add the additional teaspoon pepper if you like it spicy. Stir in the arugula or spinach if desired, sprinkle with remaining cheese and serve immediately.

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