Recipe: Cacio e Pepe

by Rebecca Schaaf of Rock Star Tacos

click to enlarge Cacio e pepe.
Cacio e pepe.

My partner in all things, Wil Pelly, has taught me a lot about cooking during our time together. So far, maybe the most important to me is how to make cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper).

Early on, we cooked together all the time: rosemary grilled cheese, fresh pasta, perfectly seared steaks, you name it. But when he noticed that I had a thing for pepper (yes, I’m slightly obsessed), he showed me the secret to making this classic pasta dish by using science, his favorite tool. The key is to heat the pepper and release its oils, which in turn marry with the butter and will coat the pasta in luxurious spice, finishing it off with Italian gold... I mean, who wouldn’t want to eat that?! I developed a problem, making this every time it popped into my mind.

Since we’ve opened our city location of Rock Star Tacos, our kitchen activity is much sparser than it used to be. The last time I made this pasta, I reached for the pepper mill to find it empty. Wil heard me swearing a blue streak and came to investigate, and when I told him the problem, he said, “Well, I guess you’re having just cacio!”

1/4 box spaghetti
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp fresh cracked black pepper
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano 
(I like to grate this fresh but whatever floats your boat)
Salt, to taste

Get a pot of water to a rolling boil.

Add spaghetti and cook to a pre-al dente, about six minutes.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then add the freshly cracked black pepper. Allow this to bubble for about three minutes, while stirring.

Remove pasta from water, saving 1/3 cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the saucepan with butter and pepper, turning up the heat to high.

Add pasta water. The pasta will finish cooking in the saucepan. Stir constantly.

Once all of the water has evaporated, remove the saucepan from heat and douse liberally with your preferred Parmigiano, give it a final stir and buon appetito!

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