Grossy's Cacio e Pepe

In Italian, Cacio e Pepe translates to "cheese and pepper," and as far as accurate recipe names go, this one nails it. Cheese and pepper are traditionally the only ingredients in this classic Roman dish. Combined with spaghetti, they create a famously creamy, cheesy, and peppery delight. For such a seemingly simple dish, it can be challenging to make the sauce without the cheese getting testy and clumping up on you. However, Mama Grossy is here to save that day! I truly believe that I have found a fool-proof way to achieve creamy dreamy Cacio e Pepe pasta that you are going to love.


Personal opinion alert: I have found that, because Cacio e Pepe is so rich, I'm often left yearning for a little more brightness and texture. My secret? Adding some fresh spicy greens and a hint of lemon zest at the very end. It really changes everything for me, and I think it will for you, too! Follow me all the way to the end of this recipe, and you are eating Grossy's Cacio e Pepe. Stop before the greens and zest, and you have a classic Cacio e Pepe that will not let you down!

WHAT YOU'LL NEED:


1 lb box of spaghetti

3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 ½ cups pecorino cheese, finely grated

½ cup parmesan cheese, finely grated

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 lemon

2 handfuls fresh arugula or mustard greens


WHAT YOU'LL DO:

Before you dive in, I just want to say that the below is very wordy, which may trick you into thinking this recipe is complicated—it's not. I just like to be thorough when describing a recipe. I'd read the below for lots of good information, and then make the Cacio e Pepe by following the step-by-step photos and instructions.


So first, you'll fill a large pot with 2 inches of water and add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. You want your water extra starchy, so less water means a higher concentration of starch. Normally I would salt my pasta water heavily but not today because this dish gets real salty real fast!


Bring water to a boil and add pasta. Set timer for 6 minutes. No really—set a timer.


While the timer ticks away, add 2 ½ teaspoons freshly cracked pepper to the bottom of a large pan. Turn heat to medium and toast the pepper, moving it around in pan until pepper is fragrant (about 2 minutes). Carefully add 1 cup of pasta water from the pasta pot into the pan with pepper and stir. Let simmer over medium.


While the timer ticks on, add 1 ½ cups finely grated pecorino cheese and ½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese in a mixing bowl. Whisk it up, removing any clumps, then set aside.


Note: You can use ALL pecorino in this recipe, which is traditional in Roman Cacio e Pepe, but I find it can be a bit too salty. The mix of a little parmesan helps cut the salt a bit!


When your 6 minute timer is up, use tongs to transfer your pasta into the pan with peppery water. Mix well and continue to simmer over medium heat.


Take 1 cup of hot pasta water and add to bowl with cheese. Immediately start to whisk. Do not stop until you have the creamiest and dreamiest cheese sauce. That means no lumps!


Add cheese sauce to pan with pasta. There should still be a little bit of pasta water left in pan. Mix until combined, and then keep going until you have a perfectly thick, creamy and glossy sauce coating your pasta. Add more freshly ground pepper to taste. If your sauce dries out too fast, add more reserved pasta water as needed.


If you stop here, you have traditional Cacio e Pepe. If you want to go full Grossy on it, read on.


Remove from heat. Add a few handfuls of arugula or mustard greens to pan plus the zest of ½ of a lemon. Stir pasta a few times to incorporate, but don't over mix. The greens will wilt just a little bit, which is all you want!


Plate your pasta, adding some more greens on top for crunch! Enjoy!


Note: Cacio e Pepe is best made fresh and eaten immediately. The process is so fast and easy! I like to keep some pasta water for reheating leftovers in a pan. Add some pasta water little by little over medium heat and stir until your sauce is thick and creamy again!


Make it step-by-step with me below!

1. Fill a large pot with 2 inches of water and add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Bring water to a boil and add pasta. Set timer for 6 minutes. No really—set a timer.

2. While the timer ticks away, add 2 ½ teaspoons freshly cracked pepper to the bottom of a large pan. Turn heat to medium and toast the pepper, moving it around in pan until pepper is fragrant (about 2 minutes).

3. Carefully add 1 cup of pasta water from the pasta pot into the pan with pepper and stir. Let simmer over medium heat.

4. While your timer ticks, add 1 ½ cups finely grated pecorino cheese and ½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese in a mixing bowl. Whisk it up, removing any clumps, and set aside.

5. When your 6 minutes is up, use tongs to transfer your pasta into pan with peppery water. Mix well and continue to simmer over medium.

6. This is the magic! Take 1 cup of hot pasta water and grab your bowl of cheese and your whisk.

7. Add hot pasta water to bowl with cheese. Immediately start to whisk. Do not stop until you have the creamiest and dreamiest cheese sauce. That means no lumps! Voila!

8. Over medium heat, add cheese sauce to pan with pasta. There should still be a little bit of pasta water left in pan. Mix until combined, and then keep going until you have a perfectly thick, creamy and glossy sauce coating your pasta. If your sauce dries out too fast, add more reserved pasta water as needed.

9. She's truly stunning! Add more freshly ground pepper to taste.


If you stop here, you have traditional Cacio e Pepe. If you want to go fully Grossy on it, follow me.

10. Remove from heat. Add a few handfuls of arugula or mustard greens to pan plus the zest of ½ of a lemon.

11. Stir pasta a few times to incorporate, but don't over mix. The greens will wilt just a little bit, which is all you want!

12. Plate your pasta, adding some more greens on top for crunch! Enjoy!

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