Linguine Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe pasta

Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and Pepper) is a simple, yet delicious way to serve pasta.  It is a typical dish from Rome, and can be served with spaghetti, linguine, or even short pasta such as rigatoni.

On this occasion, I made Linguine Cacio e Pepe.

Linguine Cacio e Pepe

Ingredients – Linguine Cacio e Pepe for 4 people

  • 500g Linguine
  • 200g Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Generous amount of freshly-ground black pepper
  • Drop of oil and fistful of salt for the pasta cooking water

Method

Put a large pan with water, a drop of oil and a fistful of salt on the hob and bring to the boil.  I usually advocate using the largest possible stockpot style pan for pasta cooking, but this recipe works best if you have very starchy water, so use a slightly smaller (but still ample) pan / less water than you usually would for pasta.

Once the water is boiling, add the pasta, stir after a minute or so, and occasionally during cooking, to ensure it doesn’t stick together.

While the pasta is cooking, finely grate the pecorino cheese.  The key to this recipe is the cheese.  Make sure you use a good quality pecorino romano and that you grate it as finely as you can – this will enable you to create the creamy sauce.  If the cheese is too coarsely grated, it won’t go creamy and will clump instead.

Grind plenty of black pepper into the pecorino.  How much you use, will depend on taste, but you are ideally aiming for a speckled look to the cheese, and for a good peppery kick to the sauce.

Once the pasta is nearly cooked (about a minute before it’s done), take a bit of water out of the pan with a ladle and stir it into the cheese with a fork.  Add a bit at a time (half a ladle or less) and stir each time, until you achieve the desired creamy consistency.

Cacio e pepe - the creamy 'sauce' consistency

This is what you are aiming for with the pecorino, pepper and cooking water.

Once the pasta is cooked, nicely ‘al dente’, drain it and immediately stir it through the cheese.

Serve onto pasta bowls and, if you wish, add a bit more freshly-ground black pepper.

Cacio e pepe pasta.  Gloriously Simple.  Gloriously Good! 

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Carbonara Sauce | Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Carbonara Sauce | The authentic way to make it

Carbonara Sauce is possibly one of the most distorted and ‘abused’ sauces worldwide.  I admit to being a pedant and quite militant with it when it comes to Italian food, but why mess with something so simple and delicious? By all means, make pasta with a sauce that includes cream, mushrooms…whatever you want to stick in it.  Go for it!  Just please don’t call it ‘carbonara’!

Authentic Carbonara Sauce only contains a few very simple ingredients: eggs, pecorino cheese, black pepper, guanciale (it can be difficult to get hold of in the UK – I order it online – so you CAN substitute pancetta, but for the best – and most authentic – taste, try to get hold of guanciale), olive oil.

Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 6 large egg yolks (if you don’t like waste, make meringue with the left-over whites)
  • 70-100g grated pecorino cheese (enough to make a thick paste with the egg yolks – the exact amount will depend on the size of the yolks)
  • plenty of freshly-ground black pepper (to taste, but you do want to see a ‘speckled’ effect, ideally)
  • 200g diced guanciale (if you really can’t get hold of any, substitute with diced pancetta – I get my guanciale online here)
  • a generous dash of olive oil (bear in mind that an Italian ‘dash’ is quite a large splash!)
  • Spaghetti for 4 people (approx. 700g)

Method:

Place a large pan / stockpot approx. 3/4 full of water onto the hob and turn the heat on high.

While the pasta water comes to the boil, separate the eggs and place the egg yolks in a large serving bowl.  Add the grated pecorino cheese and freshly-ground black pepper to the egg yolks and stir in with a fork.  Aim for a thick consistency.

Carbonara Sauce | egg yolk and pecorino cheese

Egg yolk with pecorino and black pepper

In a frying pan, heat the olive oil and add the diced guanciale, fry until the guanciale fat goes quite transparent and a little bit crispy.

Once the water comes to the boil, add a few drops of olive oil and a small handful of coarse sea salt.  Add the spaghetti when the water is boiling vigorously and push it down with a wooden spoon within a few seconds – as soon as it’s soft enough to ‘bend’ and stir so that all the pasta is in the water and doesn’t stick together. Cook the pasta for the indicated time on the pack, but taste it a minute or two before the indicated time to ensure you don’t over-cook it. It needs to retain a little bit of ‘bite’ – the ‘al dente’ consistency.

Once the spaghetti are cooked, drain them and immediately drop them into the big serving bowl containing the egg yolks, pecorino cheese and black pepper, mixing them with a serving spoon and fork to ensure the pasta is evenly coated in the egg, pecorino & pepper mixture and no ‘clumps’ form.

Pour on the olive oil and guanciale immediately and mix in.  Serve & enjoy!

Carbonara Sauce | Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Spaghetti alla Carbonara – Gloriously Simple, Gloriously Good!