A simple pasta sauce recipe, a speciality of Rome, Italy. Made with salty pecorino Romano cheese and freshly ground black peppercorns, it makes a creamy, indulgent vegetarian dinner or entree.
I loves me some pasta and cheese. I try to avoid eating it most of the time as there is nothing healthy about eating a vast quantity of pasta (it must be vast), laden with lovely oozy cheese, butter and several grinds of black pepper.
Mmmmm oozy cheese… But I digress.
So I don’t eat this very often any more and try to go for more vegetable-laden alternatives, but my recent visit to Rome was an excuse to indulge my love of this base, but extremely satisfying, dish. Here, pasta and cheese is elevated to the position of ‘regional speciality’ – cacio e pepe.
Consisting entirely of pecorino Romano cheese, black pepper and starchy pasta water, this very simple pasta sauce demands fresh, handmade pasta. One of my favourite things about casual eating in Rome was that almost every single restaurant served fresh, handmade, egg pasta. It’s so much nicer! And healthier! On such a vehicle, a simple sauce shines.
Although this dish traditionally uses tonnarelli pasta, I made tagliatelle because I thought it would be easier to make by hand. I do have attachments for this kind of pasta for my machine, but they were packed away somewhere (in another country I think!), so I used this hand-cut method instead.
The sauce recipe is taken from Cook’s Illustrated, the unparallelled US stalwart of thoroughly tested home cooking that I refer to constantly for advice on recipes, equipment and technique. I really wish we had something like it in Europe. Or that they listed their recipes with metric measurements!
Silky, cheesy, savoury, spicy, peppery, creamy… Yummy decadence, how I love you!
Cacio e pepe
Fresh Egg Tagliatelle
- 250 g plain flour
- 3 large eggs
- 6 large egg yolks
Cheese & Black Pepper Sauce
- 1900 ml water
- 9 g or 1.5 teaspoons salt
- 115 g Pecorino Romano cheese finely grated
- 55 g Pecorino Romano cheese roughly grated
- 30 g or 2 tablespoons double cream
- 10 g or 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- Mix the flour, eggs, and egg yolks on low speed in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until the dough comes together. Replace the paddle with the dough hook and knead on medium speed until it forms a ball, about 5 minutes.
- Either knead by hand on a lightly floured surface for 20 to 25 minutes, or continue to knead with your machine if you trust it not to burn out! When ready, the ball should feel elastic and the surface smooth and silky.
- Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes (up to overnight) before shaping.
- After shaping the pasta, use about 450g (for 4 people) and reserve the rest for another meal.
- Bring the water to a boil in a large pan. Add the salt and pasta and cook until al dente - timing will depend on your pasta, but homemade pasta will cook in a matter of seconds. Drain the pasta, reserving 350ml of the cooking water.
- Slowly whisk 230ml of the reserved pasta water into the finely grated Pecorino until smooth. Whisk in the cream, oil, and black pepper.
- Pour the sauce over the pasta, tossing carefully to coat. Let the pasta rest for a couple of minutes, tossing frequently - this will allow the sauce to thicken and coat the pasta better. If the sauce appears a little too thick, adjust with some of the remaining pasta water.
- Sprinkle with the roughly grated Pecorino and another few turns of black pepper.