For me, this simple Roman dish is pure comfort food as well as being very inexpensive and easy to make. Although it originated in Rome, it is a common dish seen on restaurant menus across Umbria as well. When I want a light, tasty pasta dish, this is often my first choice. In Umbria, it is often made with Umbria’s traditional pasta strangozzi, and may or may not include a little chopped guanciale or pancetta. I am giving the basic recipe for Cacio e Pepe as well as an Umbrian variation below. Although Cacio de Roma cheese is often used in combination with Pecorino Romano, feel free to use just grated Pecorino cheese. Freshly cracked black pepper really makes this pasta so don’t use regular pepper.
Umbrian Version – Substitute strangozzi pasta for the spaghetti. In addition to the oil, add 1/2 cup finely chopped guanciale or pancetta and cook it first in the oil until lightly browned before adding the pepper. Follow the rest of the instructions as written.
Deborah Mele 2011
- 1 Pound Spaghetti
- 4 Tablespoons Extra-virgin Olive Oil
- 2 Teaspoons Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
- 1 Cup Finely Grated Aged Pecorino Romano Cheese (Reserve 1/4 For Serving)
- 3⁄4 Cup Finely Grated Cacio de Roma (Or 1 3/4 Cups Total Grated Pecorino)
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then add the pasta, and cook until al dente.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat until hot.
- Add the pepper and cook until fragrant, 1–2 minutes.
- Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.
- Add 3⁄4 cup pasta water into skillet with the oil, and then bring to a boil.
- Using tongs, transfer pasta to skillet.
- Sprinkle 3⁄4 cup each Pecorino Romano and Cacio de Roma (or solely Pecorino if using just one cheese) over the pasta.
- Toss the pasta with the cheese and oil mixture to combine until sauce is creamy and clings to the pasta without clumping, adding some additional pasta water if necessary.
- Transfer to 4 plates and sprinkle with remaining Pecorino and more black pepper.