The thread “Minimal Mess” Dishes generated many posts about this recipe. To make this information more accessible it’s been moved to this thread! The original thread has a link to bring readers here.
Any tips you wish to pass on regarding Cacio e Pepe? I haven’t had the nerve to try it yet, although I did make a passable Carbonara a few times.
"Minimal mess" dishes?
Sure: I’ll post in an internet link that covers most of the bases:
Regarding that recipe, what I like is it using just pecorino romano (not my favorite cheese, generally, but here, yes). I do not follow the indicated process of cooking the rough-ground pepper in the oil, but why not (and I do not recommend using butter at all, for heat reasons). Maybe a whole garlic clove or two heated in the heated olive oil (medium heat so as not to scorch the cloves). I’d be tempted to add a pinch of hot chile flakes, but might not, as it will complicate what is in essence a simple dish, where coarse ground black pepper should dominate.
Raise the heat when your garlic clove has infused the oil, have your bowl of grated cheese all ready, and then pour in a cup or so of reserved pasta water (helps to have a splatter screen here, or a quick hand with a lid until it settles down), so that it’s all quite hot again, then you pour in the par-cooked pasta and toss to coat. Stir in cheese. Pasta will finish in the oil/water, keep it hot, and some more water might be called for as you stir in the cheese and copious pepper (this is where I put pepper in).
I think failures come from the water/oil not being hot enough, and stinginess with reserved water is no good. If the initial pour of water doesn’t sizzle immediately on addition to the oil, then the pot’s not hot enough. Stirring gently but continuously melds the cheese with the rest. Ideally, it should take more time to boil the pasta water than to prepare the dish. I tend to sprinkle in minced parsley at the end.
As to pasta shapes, the tubular spaghetti-like ones (bucatini; perciatelle) seem optimal. What makes me forward this recipe is its recommended vigilance about timing (it’s fast) and also its view of saving late-reserved pasta water for bringing together that pasta with the cheese.
Cacio e Pepe is definitely one of those things that you have to find what works for you . . . . . .
From my experiences - American versions of italian cheeses are just not the same as those you get in Italy - regardless of how much you spend or how “authentic” you think you’re buying . . . . . so recipes that work in Italy don’t always work in the US (if that is where you’re cooking/purchasing ingredients).
I don’t do any of the oil/garlic stuff. I now just boil the pasta - reserve a cup or two of the liquid - drain the pasta - put pasta back in hot pot with a drizzle of oil, pepper, and cheese - quick toss - add the cooking liquid - quick toss - put cover on pot and let it all sit for 2 minutes - then toss well until everything seems mixed together and cheese seems melted and distributed.
My biggest “error” always seems to be (what I believe to be) overheating the cheese which causes it to start separating and clumping. I end up with as much cheese clumped onto my tongs and clinging to the pot. For ME - letting the heat of the pasta and pot melt the cheese seems to help eliminate this.
It isn’t something I would do for a crowd until you find what works for you . . . . but once you get it to work, it is definitely a go to, easy dinner for me - and I love this dish.
Well, I’ll have to try it next week. The funny thing is, most of the recirpes I’ve seen so far call for 3 ingredients: pasta, pecorino, pepper. And Italian recipes that call for cheese usually call for butter and not olive oil. But there are exceptions. I guess I’ll try both versions. Thanks for the encouragement.
Not invariably true, but generally true, is that northern Italy veers to butter, while the south veers to oil, and this Roman dish is southward looking. But butter would be fine so long as the heat doesn’t scorch the butter–in several dishes, like risotto, I use both fats.
I’ve had better luck scooping the hot pasta into another bowl/pan before adding the cheese - less incidence of clumping. I add hot pasta water a bit at a time to loosen up / form a sauce.
But a lot depends on the type of cheese used - I’ve used everything from freshly grated to Costco shreds depending on what was available, just have to tweak the method to get the melt without clumping.
Folks are split between butter and olive oil so we alternate (IMO butter creates a better “sauce” and a more harmonized flavor.)
Another option from Smitten Kitchen- which is interesting because you basically make the “sauce” cold and then mix hot pasta into it (haven’t tried myself since cheese and I don’t get along)
Well, I’ll try a number of variations next week. When I went shopping today, I bought some excellent Italian pasta. But, of course, I forgot to buy the cheese! So we’re aiming at Monday.
That smitten kitchen recipe is from Elizabeth Minchilli. I recently made a wonderful fettucine Alfredo from a recipe of hers (not for you! full of butter), so I’ll definitely try this one first. I seem to remember other Italian recipes mixing the cheese with cold water first. And Mark Bittmann also published some recipes after visiting this same Flavio.
I’m sure this method is great (and I’m sure I’ll try it soon), but somehow using a blender or food processor destroys my idea of the simplicity of cacio e pepe. I mean, that was probably an illusion anyway, but, you know… (meanwhile my immersion blender is always on my counter - I use to beat eggs even, so it’s not like that’s a real hurdle…)
Well, no one forces you to use the immersion blender! And he was obviously making a large amount. Bittman visited the same guy in 2015 and said he mixed his pastas with a fork or a spoon: Flavio al Velavevodetto
I had the Bittman version mentally flagged to look at soon, but it makes sense that he wouldn’t use a machine for this.
Re immersion blender, maybe it didn’t come across, but my point was that I use mine all the time, for things most would consider it unnecessary for. So it’s not a mental hurdle for me to use it. Just a conceptual pause for this dish.
Well, I just recently bought a new one, so it only makes sense to use it. But my point was that the same Flavio that made the dish for Elizabeth Minchilli using an immersion blender, made it for Mark Bittman with a fork. I hurt my hands recently, so immersion blender seems to be the way to go.
This is the one I was thinking of. Thanks for posting.
I’ve used this technique that was on Chowhound of all places recently (minus the part where they make fresh pasta), worked well:
From chef Jordan Frosolone of NYC’s 10 Corso Como. Quite simple and with only pepper, pasta, and pecorino (and pasta water). Basically they ladle out some of the starchy pasta water into a pan, crack a good amount of pepper in it, let that simmer for a bit, and then put in the pasta (which has been cooked to about a minute before it is done) and let that simmer a bit and suck up more of the peppery pasta water. Then off the heat pecorino is added and the pasta is stirred and tossed to coat and melt the cheese. More pecorino and pepper is added at the end to finish.
Since I’ve had good luck with Elizabeth Minchilli before, I figured I’d try her recipe first. We didn’t grate the cheese finely enough, so it was not perfectly mixed, but it didn’t clump, either. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say it was a C+, maybe even a B-. Next week I’ll try @BadaBing’s recipe with the olive oil.
So I tried your recipe tonight. It was more successful than last week’s trial, although last week’s was not bad. Last week I did not have any clumping of cheese with the pasta, but an enormous amount of cheese remained stuck to the pan. My wife was not pleased.
Tonight’s cacio e pepe was much more successful in that there was very little cheese stuck to the pan. The olive oli probably played a role, but what was probably much more important were the proportions that Cioletti gives. Last week I used too much cheese in relation to the pasta. Elizabeth Minchilli’s video does not give any amounts, so I took amounts from another Italian website. Tonight’s version was a bit too salty, but that was probably because some idiot put too much salt in the pasta water.
By the way, although I grant that Jeff Cioletti knows a thing or two about pasta cacio e pepe, I still have to object to something he wrote:
And please, never use cream. It’s not authentic, and all it does is dilute the flavor of the Pecorino. If you want to use cream, you might as well go make fettucine alfredo.
He may know cacio e pepe, but he knows nothing about fettucine Alfredo!