How should i start this? yes, probably just saying that this is by far the most favorite dish of Lou. We just came to New York, It was August 2020. We were staying at this hotel on 50th street and one of my closest friend, Lollo and his wife Melanie came along to meet us and welcome us in this crazy city. It was pouring and late and we were very hungry, and by the way, it was Lou’s birthday! Lollo suggested a place near the hotel called ‘La pecora bianca.” As an italian, I am always a bit skeptical especially given that surreal name, but i trusted my friend. So we went and as we ordered all the entrees, Lollo goes, “should we also order a spaghetti cacio e pepe to share as an appetizer?” and that was the start of the cacio e pepe saga. Lou just felt in love with the dish so much that at every restaurant we went afterwards, her mind was only recogninzing that name on the menu, nothing else. Of course, after repetedly addressing that La pecora bianca was making the best cacio e pepe in the world, as we went to Rome last July, she had to try the real one, and…as her face suggests… she seemed pretty saitsfied with that! Today, i wanted to bring on your table this wonderful pasta dish, with simple and poor ingredients but extremely powerful and delicious. This is Rome for me, and this is the joy of seeing one the best and widest smile in Lou’s face!
Only three stars:
- 250g spaghetti
- 200g grated Pecorino Romano
- 5g black pepper
- j.e. salt
1. Fill a large stock pot with water and add some salt. Put the lid on and let it boil.
2. Grate the Pecorino Romano if not grated, yet. Then, using either an hand mixer or a small food processor, or even better a mortar, smash the black pepper grains! By chopping the grains, you would except more freshness and aroma compared to using already grated black pepper.
3. Throw around 180g of pecorino and 3g of grated black pepper into a big bowl (large enough so you can mix your spaghetti later on). The rest of the cheese and pepper will be use for the garnish.
4. When the water in the stock pot boils, throw your spaghetti.
5. Now the tricky and interesting part comes. First of all, we want to make a nice sauce with the pecorino and pepper. As the pasta is cooking, add some of the boiling water in your bowl containing the cheese and pepper and using a spatula mix very fast and energetically. As you keep adding water the sauce becames more liquid. Stop adding it when you see that you have a nice homogeneous creamy sauce. The major mistake at this step is to either add too much water (becoming too liquid) or adding the boiling water and not mix well and quickly (this could compromise your sauce as the cheese will start looking like a frittata!). Be far from the heat when doing the sauce, very important!
6. When the cooking time is up for your spaghetti (usually, 9-12 minutes) transfer them into the bowl with the cacio e pepe sauce and start mixing very quickly to avoid making the frittata mistake. Add more boiling water if you see that the sauce does not stand up for all the spaghetti you have!
7. Plate your pasta. Add some of the beautiful sauce you find at the bottom of the bowl, add the remaining pecorino and pepper on top. Enjoy!