Cacio e Pepe is probably the most famous, most simple, and most controversial dish of Rome’s cuisine. I’ve seen numerous recipes claiming to be the official, authentic version. Perhaps the simplest and most tasty version uses nothing more than high-quality pasta, ground pepper and authentic Pecornio Romano D.O.P. Cheese. Other versions add butter or olive oil (or both) but that, I think, clouds the beauty of the dish.
Pecorino Romano D.O.P. (Protected Designations of Origin) is made in a very specific way and produced in a specific geographic region including areas of Lazio (the Italian region that includes Rome). Grated pecorino that you find in your local supermarket is NOT Pecorino Romano D.O.P.!
When I arrived in Rome on my trip in October, the bellman at the airport hotel where we swapped some cars around told me that he lived in the neighborhood where I would be staying. Testaccio is a quiet working class neighborhood close, but not too close, to the center of Rome. This neighborhood features some of Rome’s best restaurants. This gentleman told me that I must try the Cacio e Pepe at Flavio Al Velavevodetto in Testaccio. So off I went.
I found the restaurant at lunch frequented by Rome’s businesspeople – no tourists to be found. And surprisingly, they served Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe, a square-shaped long pasta vs. the round-shaped spaghetti that you find in Cacio e Pepe in America. I knew that at home I had the KitchenAid stand mixer attachment for Tonnarelli, but had never tried it.
So here’s my version of Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe alla Los Angeles.
This recipe serves 4 people as a primo piatto!
Ingredients and Directions:
- 14 ounces (by weight) of flour – I recommend ½ “00” flour and ½ semolina flour. Use all-purpose flour if either of those is unavailable.
- 4 jumbo eggs
Cacio e Pepe
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup of grated Pecorino Romano D.O.P.
- Mix the flours and eggs using the “well method” to create the pasta dough. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes and wrap in waxed paper and place in the refrigerator to rest for at least 30 minutes and up to a few hours.
- Roll out using the KitchenAid stand mixer with the sheet attachment to rather thick thickness – I went up to setting #4 on the sheet attachment.
- Allow the pasta to dry to the point where it will separate into strands when put it through the Torrarelli attachment, but not so dry that it becomes brittle. You will need to test this using a sample piece of rolled-out dough.
- Cut the dough sheets into about 12-inch lengths, and cut using the tonnarelli attachment. Place on sheet trays layered with parchment paper to hold in the refrigerator until ready for use. The pasta can also be frozen but will become very brittle and needs to be handled very carefully.
Cacio e Pepe
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. If available, use a pot with a removable strainer insert. IMPORTANT!! – What makes this dish successful is using the starchy cooking water left over from cooking the pasta in the dish, so if you have to drain the pasta in a strainer, reserve 1 cup of pasta water.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and grind in fresh black pepper to taste. Gently toast the pepper. If you burn it, start again.
- Drop the fresh tonnarelli pasta into the boiling water. When the pasta floats to the top, cook for AT MOST 1 minute and drain.
- Ladle some pasta water into the hot skillet containing the pepper. Swirl around and then add the cooked pasta.
- Continuing over medium-low heat, add in most of the Pecorino Romano cheese (reserving some for serving at the table). Ladle in a little more pasta water and stir the pasta around to create a cheesy, starchy sauce.
- Serve and pass the remaining Pecorino Romano.