Since my personal cheffing days, I have been on the list of home recipe testers for a national food magazine. You know the one that deconstructs all of the recipes in order to reproduce them in painstaking detail. Sometimes helpful, other times boring.
This weekend I was testing a recipe for Cacio e Pepe, that quintessential Roman pasta dish. The problem for me in testing recipes is that one must make recipes exactly as written for obvious reasons--even if you don't agree with the methods or ingredients. But I do it for fun. I certainly don't receive any remuneration--not even a subscription to the magazine or website.
So I called L and J, with whom we have shared two trips to Rome and countless bowls of pasta, and asked them to come for dinner to help me test this recipe. I prepared the recipe as written, even though the method was awkward and additional ingredients were unnecessary. But all in all the taste was good and the Frascati served with it complementary.
In my humble opinion there are only four ingredients needed to make an outstanding Cacio e Pepe. They are authentic aged pecorino romano sheep's milk cheese; fresh, coarsely ground black pepper; good quality spaghetti; and pasta water.
My Recipe for Cacio e Pepe
While bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil, crush or coarsely grind 2 tablespoons fresh black peppercorns.
Ladle some hot water into your mixing/serving bowl to warm it, drain.
Cook 1 pound spaghetti until it is al dente. Lift the spaghetti from the pot with tongs or strainer and drop into the warm serving dish.
Quickly scatter about 1 cup of grated pecorino cheese over the pasta and most of the ground pepper, and toss quickly. As you toss, sprinkle in a ladle or two of hot pasta water to moisten and amalgamate all of the ingredients. You may need more water to make this happen. Add more cheese or pepper to taste.
Note: Some like to put about 1 cup of hot water in the serving dish whisking in the cheese and pepper then adding the hot pasta and tossing to coat thoroughly. Add more cheese and pepper to taste.
Serves 4 as a main dish