Pepper, pecorino and pasta. Add trial and error and you get a classic Roman dish. This is a brilliant primo or a quick dinner when your fridge is empty. I almost never find it in Italian restaurants: probably because it is hard to make well.
The worst you can do is to have too much heat: this will make your cheese stringy. I have probably done it 50 times to date and tested several methods. Here are the results:
🥇 Best method: Luciano Monosilio, you Italian genius!
🤓 Easiest method: The Bowl method (h/t @Goan on Twitter)
Update, 28th of May 22: as it appears all the YT chefs have started to make Cacio e Pepe. If you would like to test the foolproof restaurant method of Luciano Monosilio (second one in his video), you can find the recipe along with science behind the dish in the video of Ethan Cheblowski. In the meantime my initial inspiration, Stephan Cusato, also posted a new and improved video about the dish.
After checking many recipes for pasta to cheese ratio (1.5-4x), I settled for 2.5-3x more pasta than cheese.
Ingredients (for 1 hungry person) - 160g of high quality bronze die pressed pasta (bucatini* if you find them) - 50g of finely grated pecorino + some for dusting - 1 tsp of ground peppercorns - salt *bucatini cannot really be bent, so you need to cook them in a pan
General notes - salt your pasta water less than usual (the least possible amount of water to increase the starch level) - grate your cheese as fine as possible - 2.5-3.0x more pasta than cheese, 1tsp of peppercorns per 160g of pasta - mixing pecorino with parmesan also works (50-50 or whatever you like) - toasting the peppercorns is optional (do not kill me, Luciano) - never finish over too high heat, unless you want lumpy shit cheese
🥇 Best method (Luciano Monosilio 🙏) Watch the 5 min video below as well (English subtitles available) and then use my interpretation for additional guidance. 1. put grated cheese and ground (toasted) pepper in a pan (off heat!) 2. cook pasta until al dente (in lightly salted water) 3. save some pasta water after 3/4 cooked in a separate bowl so it cools down a bit 4. add a bit cooled down pasta water to the pan (how much water? Start slowly adding so it melts the cheese - God help us, this is totally a feeling thing, but you should not add too much!) 5. mix the cheese, water and pepper with a rubber spatula 6. after pasta is cooked, drain it and set aside so it cools down a bit 7. add pasta to the pan, start creaming, mixing with a spatula until its nicely mixed (observe in the video how he is constantly mixing and tossing the pasta) 8. now add the pan to a gentle heat again, but careful, it should not heat up too much; cheese will get stringy if it's heated above 70 degrees 9. mix with spatula and toss until it received some more heat (mixing and tossing constantly) 10. remove from the heat and add more pecorino on top, toss and cream again Serve and amaze your guests and yourself by saying: "Dear dear, how simple and how good" This is a dish which requires feeling and practice. But it is really worth it.
🤓 Easiest method: The Bowl method (h/t @Goan on Twitter) (mix cheese and pepper) 1. cook pasta to al dente 2. add kettle boiled water to a separate bowl so it heats it up a bit, remove water 3. add drained cooked pasta, cheese & pepper 4. gradually add slightly cooled down pasta water 5. toss and mix until perfection, adding more water if needed 6. serve and thank yourself for being so resourceful
Honorable mentions Making the sauce by an emulsion method. These are harder, because you need to be spot on with the ratio of pasta and water. In some recipes they fry the peppers on olive oil (eg. Samin Nosrat) and then create emulsion. Here are two variations: Method 1 (Stephen Cusato, video below): add pasta water to cheese, making a paste, finish cooking the pasta in the pan by adding water gradually, add the cheese paste to the pan, toss and mix until perfection Method 2 (no cheese paste): add grated cheese in gradually (three times worked great), toss and mix until perfection. I found this one working better. If you wanna geek out more, here is an interesting Guardian article.