|Light Stunt: Cacio e Pepe|
My sister-in-law recently celebrated her one year anniversary by taking a European vacation that took her and her husband through Rome. Before she left, I asked her to bring me back some dried pasta from Italy and she did!
Inspiration Behind the Dish
While she was in Europe, I attended the International Food Bloggers Conference where I met Sara Rosso who currently resides in Italy. Somehow we started to discuss Italian food when she asked what I knew about authentic Italian food. I replied that I was surprised to find the cuisine is so simple. To that end, I thought I'd demonstrate it using ingredients from Italy.
Cacio e pepe is Italian for cheese and pepper and refers to the sauce that accompanies this simple pasta dish I adapted from bon appétit.
1 pound dried spaghetti
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 teaspoon black pepper, cracked
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/3 cup Pecorino cheese, shredded
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1. Boil the pasta. Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil over high heat. Drop the pasta into the water and return to a boil, stirring occasionally for two minutes less than the instructions on the package directs. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water and set aside.
2. Prepare the sauce. While the pasta cooks, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pepper to toast and becomes fragrant, approximately one to two minutes. Add about half of the pasta water to the pan and bring to a simmer. Add the pasta with the remaining tablespoon of butter, stirring until melted. Remove from heat and toss with the two cheeses and serve in warmed bowls garnished with parsley.
I like this dish for several reasons. First and foremost, despite it's simplicity, it yielded incredible flavor. Second, there's some techniques demonstrated in this dish that might be missed if not highlighted. 1) Add salt to the pasta water. Pasta acts like a sponge and will add incredible flavor to the dish. 2) Undercook the pasta in the boiling water because 3) the pasta will finish cooking in the sauce in order to blend the flavors of the sauce and the pasta. 4) Reserve some of the pasta water to use in the sauce. The starchy water will bind and thicken the sauce, and in the case of this dish, can also act as an emulsifier.
Speaking of the International Food Bloggers Conference, I'll have a fuller review of my experiences hopefully next week.