There's a lot to say about this dish. Let's keep it simple though. Point a) This is my favourite pasta dish. Point b) I do not make it the traditional way and I make no apologies. I am not Italian! The traditional way is just pasta water, pepper and cheese but I make it with butter too because....yum! People who have a problem with that can just shhhh OR make it anyway you like, I'm not saying this is the best and only way. Wow, sorry got a bit aggressive there, let's get on with it shall we?
A note on the ingredients for Cacio e Pepe
Pasta - this is traditionally made with pici so check out my guide on how to make hand rolled pici pasta. It works really well with hardy shapes so gnocchi sardi or orecchiette work perfectly. Dried is also great as it is so sturdy. I have specified 100g per person in the recipe.
Butter - As I have said this is a touch controversial but let's just get past that. I use unsalted as I prefer to season myself but salted will work fine.
Cheese - traditionally it is a split of parmesan and pecorino. You can do what you like here, all pecorino, all parmesan or a split of both. Whatever you prefer!
Pepper - I freshly grind black pepper for this dish and the amount is up to you. I would start with 1 Tbsp and see what you think, it's easy to add more.
Pasta water - as always this is your secret weapon here so make sure you save a good amount as you can keep adding it if you need to loosen the sauce.
Tips for making the best cacio e pepe
- Timing, as always for pasta, is kind of crucial. This takes practice, it takes no time at all to bring this sauce together so you only start melting the butter when your pasta is almost cooked.
- Letting the cheese melt on top is key to getting an emulsified sauce. Ever tried to add parmesan to butter and it becomes a stringy balled up mess? The key is letting the grated cheese sit on top of the pasta and melting before mixing through. I have reel showing this.
- Finely grated cheese is also the only way to go, preferably with a microplane. A box grater isn't going to get the cheese fine enough to melt evenly and quickly.