Classic Cacio e Pepe is a favorite dish of mine that is simple, very quick to make, and most importantly packs outstanding flavor.

Years ago, I had this dish in Little Italy in New York, it was wonderful, then I came across it at one of my favorite restaurants at the Jersey Shore and it was love eternal. This dish is on their menu, and I always get it as a pasta course and never tire of it and my friends love it too. I became obsessed with trying to perfect this classic Roman dish, I finally found the right balance and recipe that will make your dinner guests happy and members of the Clean Plate Club. Have fun with this dish; serve it with a great Tuscan red wine or a heavier Italian white. A couple of notes and observations:

Use a good Pecorino Romano Cheese – grate lots of it…Pecorino melts easily, and you are keeping it real to the deep history of this recipe.

Some recipes call for added butter and or olive oil…forget it, the original recipe is just cheese, pepper, and starchy pasta water...I am a butter guy, and this recipe does not need it.

Use a little less water to cook your pasta than normal. This will create more starch and lend to the creamy consistency of the dish.

Use Bucatini pasta, it is thicker than spaghetti and holds the cheese and pepper nicely.

My recipe calls to roast the pepper before assembling the dish…FAIR WARNING: Roasting ground pepper on very high heat for a long period will cause very toxic fumes and choke your guests, I know this first hand, it happened to me…this is how they make pepper spray, seriously…be careful of this step but roast the pepper because it brings out the oils and flavor of the pepper.

Recipe: Serves 4 dinner or 6 appetizer portions

35 – 40 turns of freshly ground pepper

1 gallon of water with salt in the pot (approximately) enough to just cover the pasta

1 package of Bucatini pasta (16 oz)

2 lbs of freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Kosher salt for water


In a large pot add water and salt over high and bring to a boil

In a large frying pan add turns of grounded pepper…over high heat roast ground pepper for 2 minutes constantly moving the pepper around the pan…be careful not to over-roast!

When water is at a high rolling boil, add pasta…cook pasta for about 12 minutes, wanting it just a touch firmer than al dente as the pasta will continue to cook in the frying pan.

After the pasta is boiled add a ladle or two of the cooked pasta water to pepper in the pan…stir over medium heat…

In a separate bowl add ¾ of the cheese and add 1 to 2 or more ladles of cooked pasta water stir and whisk until cheese becomes a paste (this process reduces chances of lumping) once it becomes a smooth paste, slowly incorporate into the frying pan and reduce.

Drain pasta without losing the cooked pasta water. Add the pasta to the frying pan which is still over medium-high heat…stir and coat the pasta in the frying pan add more cheese and cook for another 2 – 3 minutes. Make sure the pasta is coated, add more water if necessary. Once pasta is al dente, plate immediately top with remaining cheese and a grind or two of pepper.

Serve immediately. This dish is no good if it hangs out…it must be served warm.

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The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.

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