Cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper), is a traditional dish from Lazio. Recipes like this, the Amatriciana and the Carbonara originate in central Italy where shepherds used to go away for the transhumance for months with their herds and, during those months, they used to carry food that could be cooked easily like pecorino cheese, guanciale (cured pork cheek), dried pasta and black pepper. This could sustain the shepherds with a good amount of protein, carbs and fats.
Cacio e pepe health facts
At the core of many Italian dishes is simplicity. Few ingredients, quick preparation and great taste. This dish is made with just three ingredients but it is incredibly tasty and nutritious, paired with a salad it makes for a fulfilling and balanced meal.
Pecorino cheese, especially the one made in small familiar cheese factories, is a very healthy cheese, unlike cow cheese it its leaner and sheeps are usually pastured raised. Pecorino is also considered a fermented food and is good for our microbiome.
You could also use whole wheat pasta to increase the quantity of fibers or, you can boil the white pasta, cool it down then reheat it to increase the quantity of resistant starches and boost the fiber quantity.
Cacio e pepe tips to make it perfect
Although it may seem very easy, making cacio e pepe could be a bit tricky, especially if you don’t want to end up with a soggy sticky spaghetti.
It’s tough to get the perfect texture with the cheese, it depends on how it’s grated, how much is matured and how much cooking water you add. However worry no more! The more you cook it the easier it gets.
I highly recommend to try to get your hand on real pecorino cheese, nowadays is easy to find in Italian grocery store. To make it perfect you need to grate the cheese ahead of time, and before adding it to the pasta you need to add come cooking water to melt it and create a silky sauce.
Some people use oil flavored with pepper, stir fry the pasta and then add the pecorino but, for me, the perfect way to make cacio e pepe is the following:
Ingredients for 4 servings
- 350gr of spaghetti
- 200gr of grated pecorino romano
- 1 tbsp of black pepper
Bring the water to a boil and cook the spaghetti (always cook it a minute less than what’s written on the package if you want an al dente consistency).
Set aside a cup of cooking water. Put the cheese into a big bowl that you’ll be using to mix the pasta. Add a couple of tablespoon of the water and mix it well, the cheese should slightly melt. Add water until you reach a very creamy consistency.
Add the pepper and mix again.
Put the spaghetti in the bowl with with the cheese and mix well. Serve it right away.