I love minimalist dishes, especially those that feature only a handful of ingredients. “Less is more”, as the saying goes; the idea is that if your ingredients are top-notch, they’re all you really need.
I think that all too often, we add so much ‘stuff’ to whatever it is we’re making that we’ve lost our sense of taste. This is especially true of ‘cacio e pepe’ (or “cheese and pepper”), a typical Roman pasta dish that’s usually made with spaghetti or bucatini (or if you really want to get authentic, with tonnarelli). The version presented here is a variation on the original, because pappardelle from Eataly was what I had on hand.
If you google recipes for cacio e pepe, you’ll see quite a few that introduce elements that, in my opinion, don’t belong. The first one that comes up for me is this recipe by Bon Appétit, which has in addition to pecorino romano cheese and black pepper, grana padano or parmesan cheese and butter. The addition of butter transforms it from ‘cacio e pepe’ to ‘burro e cacio’.
The second recipe that comes up for me is this one, from Saveur. This one has olive oil instead of butter.
For something like cacio e pepe, the combination of the heat from the pasta, combined with the cheese forms a “creamy” sauce that renders the addition of things like butter or cream unnecessary.
Pappardelle con Cacio e Pepe
1/2 lb. pappardelle
Freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
Freshly milled black pepper
Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. “Lightly salted” means enough salt so that the water tastes a little salty. Go easy on it though, because pecorino romano cheese is salty by itself. Add the pappardelle. Cook for 2-3 minutes; since pappardelle is a fresh pasta, you won’t need to cook it for longer than that, as opposed to a dried pasta like spaghetti. Drain the pasta, reserving the pasta cooking water.
Place the pappardelle in a large bowl. Add a generous helping of pecorino romano cheese, followed by a generous grind of freshly milled black pepper. I’ll leave the exact quantities up to you. Toss gently. If the pasta seems dry, add a little pasta cooking water, tablespoon by tablespoon until a light, “creamy” sauce is formed.
Divide amongst 2 serving plates or shallow pasta bowls, then serve immediately.
Time: About 20 minutes.
This recipe is sized for 2 people.