Written by Valentino Addevico
Could Rome be described with a meal? The answer is Yes, with Cacio e Pepe!
We can safely say that cacio e pepe is like the Colosseum, an institution of Roman culture in the world. Everyone loves and knows this dish, but where does this dish come from? What are its origins?
Cacio e pepe has ancient origins which, like many dishes of Roman cuisine, has to do with the long journeys of Roman shepherds.
During the transhumance, seasonal migrations of cattle from the lowland pastures to those of the mountainous regions and vice versa, the shepherds needed food that could support and even withstand the long journey and that's why they filled their bags (saddlebag) with food that could last a long time and that they could provide him with the right calorie intake. Among the various products chosen, many were dried, there is certainly space for pork cheek, pecorino cheese and strictly homemade pasta with water, salt and flour and even pepper.
These products were able to give all the necessary energy to the shepherds during their journey in fact the pecorino, the bacon and the pasta gave the caloric intake and the black pepper stimulated the receptors of the heat and helped the shepherds to protect themselves from the cold and is from the union of some of these products that produce cacio e pepe.
The dish, a bit like the shepherds, travels through the countryside of Lazio up to the Umbrian and Abruzzo's hills up to the taverns and from there begins its history in Italian cuisine.
The dish tickled the innkeeper very much and in fact, this had the objective of "getting into it" (customers and to send it down they needed to drink wine and therefore more cheese and pepper ate more wine they consumed and in the end everyone was happy, especially the innkeeper.
Before moving on to how cacio e pepe is made and what precautions to follow, it is necessary to clarify a fundamental question.
Which pasta cut goes with cheese and pepper? (link pasta cuts)
Tradition, as we have seen above, suggests spaghetti as an ideal cut for cheese and pepper but, as we well know, there are many varieties and innovations behind each dish - here you can find a guide on the pasta cuts to use.
Among the various cuts used for this dish we find tonnarelli or egg pasta, a choice widely criticised by purists because they are too porous and unable to absorb the cream. Other alternatives a little more similar to spaghetti are spaghetti alla chitarra or another alternative that is emerging is rigatone - mainly used in carbonara .
After having clarified the pasta cuts (link on the cuts) we go to prepare our cheese and pepper.
What do you need for this recipe?
Cacio, Pepper (as the recipe's name says), and cooking water. Why Cooking water? You'll see during the process that since ingredients will help us a lot.
Let's dig a li bit into the right quantities, and this is what you need:
Cacio & Pepe ingredients for 4 people
- 400 gr di Gragnano’s Spaghetti I.G.P.; (link)
- 250 gr. Pecorino Romano DOP; (link)
- q.b. Black pepper in grains;
- q.b. Sale
Let' start. We need a sharp knife, pepper in grains, and a cutter board. Let's cut the pepper grain in small pieces - it may take a little longer than you think.
One suggestion, if you have a grinder you can use it instead of the knife - even if the pepper will be a bit too small in size. Don't use a hammer cause the grains will jump around your table and the floor.
Now that we are done with the pepper, let's move on the cacio cream, but first, let's put water on the hitting, we will need it soon. Once the water boils we need to add salt and pasta.
While the pasta is cooking let's work on our cream.
The first step is the grate the cacio, done?
Now let's slowly add the cooking water to our cacio, slowly we add cacio and then water, and we mix. Do it until the cream is well mixed - don't add to much water cause it can be easily messed.
Once we are also done with the cream, let take back the pepper and brown it on a hot pan, when you see that the pepper's smell is coming out from the pan, add one scoop of cooking water and mix it.
The pasta in the meanwhile is ready, don't forget the 2 minutes rule - always remove the pasta 2 minutes before it cooking time or you won't get the well know Pasta al dente.
Add the pasta to the pepper and mix everything, now turn off the fire, put the pan aside, and start to mix the pasta with the cream - like you do in Carbonara. Mix everything and let the cream adhere to the pasta, shake it a few times and voila - our pasta is ready.
Set up the table and serve this fabulous dish. Enjoy your meal!
Need more help? Check out our video recipe
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