Cacio e pepe en vessie: A new (old) twist on cacio e pepe

A female pig’s bladder is preferable to a male pig’s bladder when cooking rigatoni cacio e pepe en vessie (cheese and pepper rigatoni pasta cooked inside a pig’s bladder) – the signature dish of chef Riccardo Camanini. This is due to the “greater elasticity”, Camanini explained. The use of a bladder as a cooking vessel means that the pasta is steamed rather than boiled, and is fully immersed in the other ingredients – the pecorino cheese, salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil – while it’s cooking. But it also means that the dish never tastes the same twice.

“The bladder is the constant imperfection,” Camanini said. “Even if we just use female bladders, 35cm horizontal and 41cm vertical [the average size bladder Camanini uses], they’re never the same. One might be deeper, or more elastic, or one may be six months older than another. The dish lives on that imperfection.”

Before serving the cacio e pepe, the pasta-filled bladder is brought to the guest’s table in a golden dish. It’s then cut open from bottom to top to reveal the creamy rigatoni inside and send the scent of the pecorino wafting through the air.

One piece of rigatoni from each batch of pasta always goes back to the kitchen for Camanini to taste. “This is because it’s always different,” Camanini said. “And there’s a joy in la repetition du geste (the repetition of a gesture). It’s something which keeps the passion in an artisan job alive.”


Not having ready access to pig bladders, does anyone have a suggested alternative vessel?