This sage advice is beyond simple, but truly elevates this beloved Roman classic.
An elevated mac-and-cheese
Cacio e Pepe – the unofficial signature pasta dish of Rome – has roots that date back to ancient times. The straightforward combination of grated pecorino cheese and plenty of pepper comes together to create a memorable meal … when it’s prepared correctly.
Ethan Stowell, the Seattle-based chef/restaurateur with more than 20 restaurants, first introduced the dish at Rione XIII in 2012. More than a decade ago, Cacio e Pepe was fairly obscure in this country. But it soon took off and recently, its popularity has inspired many clever creations. (More about that in a sec.)
While seemingly straightforward, Cacio e Pepe done right, Stowell recommends following a few essential steps:
- Save the parmesan cheese rinds – store them in the freezer – and simmer them in boiling water to make a salty stock. That’s the water in which you’ll cook the pasta.
- Reserve some of the cooking water to add to the pasta and cheese mixture.
- Gently toast the peppercorns before grinding. “We sift out the powder and use only the coarse grind,” Stowell said.
- Tonnarelli – a fatter noodle – is the traditional choice of pasta when in Rome. “You can also use spaghetti or bucatini,” he said.
Grandmaster Recorders serves a riff on Cacio e Pepe that's become a huge hit with diners.
Next Level Cacio e Pepe
At Grandmaster Recorders in Hollywood, chef Blake Shailes has come up with a savory antipasti that’s among the greatest hits at dining spot that describes its cross-global menu as Australian-Italian. Warm zeppole are topped with grated Parm and black pepper after being placed on top of a bed of imported mortadella.
“The silky charcuterie plays nicely with the warm and fluffy doughnuts,” Shailes said in a recent phone interview.
The chef described the first time he remembered having Cacio e Pepe: “They served it table side, out of a hollowed out pecorino wheel at a restaurant in Sydney. For me, it’s like one of those forgotten about classics that feels like a hug from your grandma.”