The trickiest part of the entire dish is figuring out how to properly turn the dry cheese and reserved pasta water into a creamy sauce. It’s all about portion control and the trick is quite simple to master. Make sure that the cheese is at room temperature before beginning. The leftover pasta water should also not be too hot when added to the skillet so that the cheese doesn’t coagulate and get lumpy. The key is to have a smooth and creamy sauce, without any lumps.
While you should be able to get the hang of things the first time around, the recipe for Cacio e Pepe only gets easier to follow with more attempts. Here’s how to make it at home:
- 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups of spaghetti or bucatini pasta
- 2 tablespoons of crushed black peppercorns
- 1 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
- 1 cup of Pecorino Romano cheese, grated, plus some for garnish
How to Make the Pasta
- Start by heating the extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the black peppercorns to the skillet so that they can toast. Stir occasionally until the peppercorns start to sizzle, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Prepare the pasta so that it’s al dente according to the directions on the package. Once cooked to your desired taste, use tongs or a spider spatula to transfer the pasta into a colander to drain. Reserve some of the cooking liquid from the pot and set it aside.
- Add the cheese into the heated oil skillet and, using the residual heat, add ¼ cup of the reserved cooking liquid. Gently whisk until the water has been absorbed and the mixture has the consistency of a chunky paste.
- Add ¼ cup of cooking liquid and whisk until the mixture is thick and smooth.
- Add the drained pasta into the mixture and stir until the pasta is well-coated. Stir in ¼ cup of cooking liquid at a time until a creamy sauce forms and coats the pasta. Divide the pasta and plate the Cacio e Pepe by garnishing the top with Pecorino Romano cheese.