Monday, January 6, 2014

Rome: Cacio e Pepe

My #1 favorite, can't-resist-ordering-it, when-it's-done-well-it's-the-best-thing-ever pasta dish that I've fallen for since moving to Napoli is cacio e pepe. I know damn well that this dish is "simple" and that it hardly costs anything to prepare, as the list of ingredients looks a little something like this: pasta, peppercorns, salt, olive oil, pecorino romano cheese. Cheap, cheap, cheap. Good, good, good.

My favorite restaurant in Rome adds truffles to their version. Mother of God.

I must learn to make cacio e pepe, or else I'll be plunged into a tastebud depression when I move back stateside. It was a no-brainer that I would test out the recipe in Rome (pg 109).

Rome's version taught me that a simple list of ingredients does not mean that it's a simple recipe to get right. My cacio e pepe was a mess.

First, toast the peppercorns, then bash them with a rolling pin until they're coarsely ground. Straightforward enough.

Boil pasta until nearly done. Easy.

Add a ladle of the pasta's cooking water and some olive oil to a pan, add a handful of cheese, and mix vigorously. Add the pasta, then add the rest of the cheese, the crushed pepper, and as much water as is necessary to make a sauce.

Sounds simple, right? Wrong.

Mix as I might, the cheese refused to combine with the water and oil. It clung to the pan, and the oil kept separating from the water. Adding the pasta did not spread things out. I added the remaining cheese, which also, once mixed, stuck to the pan, the spoon--everything but the pasta. Adding water did not help.
Disgracing the name Cacio e Pepe.
Ever eat pasta with globs of intensely peppered, re-solidified cheese scraped on top? Unpleasant. Very unpleasant. 

I refuse to believe that cacio e pepe must be prepared by professionals. I will figure this out. (Amy, back me up if I ask Vera to teach us!)

Conclusion: Hated it. Disaster.


  1. On it. But it will cost you. I need the name of that restaurant for our child free night in Rome later this month.

    1. Ha! We're also planning a child free night in Rome this month. Great minds...

      I accept your price. The restaurant is La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali. It's very close to the Coliseum and Forum (thus the name). We've always been able to walk in at lunch, but have seen people turned away at dinner, so it might be worth making a reservation. For your own future reference, it would be fine to bring E there. They've always been really sweet to Charlie, usually bring out his food first, have suggested they give him "short pasta" instead of spaghetti, since it's easier to eat, etc.