Big Joe Henry’s Cacio e Pepe Recipe
This has become one of my favorite dishes and probably one of the simplest dishes to make for a great dinner party or family dinner.
I first came across this dish at a Jersey Shore restaurant that I frequent often. 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 think 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 and grate lots of it…Pecorino melts easy and you’ll be keeping true to the deep history of this recipe.
- Some recipes call for added butter or olive oil. Forget it, the original recipe is just cheese, pepper and the starchy pasta water. I’m a butter guy and this recipe doesn’t 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’s thicker than spaghetti and holds the dish nicely.
My recipe calls to roast the pepper before assembling the dish…FAIR WARNING: Roasting ground pepper on a high heat for a long period of time will cause very toxic fumes and literally 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.
35 – 40 turns of freshly cracked black pepper
1 gallon of water with salt in pot (approximately) enough to just cover pasta
1 package of Bucatini pasta (16 oz)
2 lbs of freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Kosher salt for water
How to put it together:
In a large pot add water and salt over high heat and bring to a boil.
In a large frying pan add the cracked pepper. Over high heat roast the 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 pasta has been boiled add a ladle or two of the cooked pasta water to pepper in 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 paste is formed slowly incorporate into the frying pan and reduce.
Drain the pasta but reserve the cooked pasta water in a separate bowl. 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 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 has to be served warm. Serves 4 as dinner or 6 appetizer portions.