Taste of Italy: Cacio y Pepe

I’m making this for the house this weekend. It’s truly a dish that is nearest to simplicity and the love for good, quality ingredients that Italian food encompasses. It’s cheese, pepper and some noodles. So now that I can brag a bit and say “Yes! I’ve been to Italy!” (still in that emotional high, ride it with me, will you?)  I can say that you can’t just find complicated dishes there. At least the good ones weren’t. Tomato, basil, a little penne. Simple cheese and pepper with spaghetti. Roasted garlic and good bread. A margherita pizza. I’m fully convinced that the country lives by “5 Ingredients or Less” as their secret to culinary success.

I had this dish in my first real “restaurant”, as opposed to a simpler (and still fantastic) sidewalk cafe, while I was there. After having a wonderful antipasti of pate, green peppers and roasted tomato bruschetta, this simple dish was brought. If you’re an alfredo lover, this dish could be a great “lighter” option, but also one that will make my table much more because I feel like it’s a bit more authentic.

I know that this personally, made me realize that these people understand cuisine. They know that simplicity is key – I don’t need squid ink and pan-asian ginger with a mushroom that can only be found in the Alps to create a paste over top of a steak from a buffalo who only lives in the Arctic….for it to be good. I need pasta cooked properly, with a simple accompaniment that demonstrates that you can’t recreate the wheel – and shouldn’t. This dish has stood the test of time, and I love it for that….too.

Cacio Y Pepe

8 ounces spaghetti

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons cracked fresh pepper

image 1-1/2 cups freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese and cracked black pepper
are the flavors of this dish


Bring a heavy pot of salted water to a boil and boil the spaghetti until al dente.  (I use Barilla thin spaghetti and after it comes to a boil, I cook it for exactly 4 minutes, less than what the package instructions are).

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet with the olive oil.  Add the cracked pepper and gently saute for a couple of minutes. 

With tongs, remove the boiled pasta and place right into the skillet (do not drain the  pasta water).  Swirl to coat with the olive oil and pepper. Add the cheese and continue swirling the pasta to coat with the cheese.  Add a tablespoon or two of the hot pasta water and continue to coat the pasta.  

Serve immediately.



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