roman holiday: cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper pasta)

In the summer of 2012, Rock and I decided to get our shit together when we met up with each other in Italy and be a couple.  The first step towards me being here now in Moose Jaw!  The first evening I got to Rome, we had dinner at this hole in the wall basement restaurant filled only with locals across the street from our little hotel.  I really wish I remembered the name of the restaurant, but I just can’t.  I don’t think we ever knew it actually.  They were about to close for holidays so they didn’t have much on the menu that we could actually order but I ended up getting cacio e pepe which turned out to be a classic Roman dish of just pasta with pecorino romano cheese and fresh cracked black pepper.  Doesn’t sound like much but it was really good!

I think this recipe usually calls for spaghetti but when I had it in Rome, it was with rigatoni.   You can use spaghetti or whatever other pasta you’d like but I’ll use rigatoni just because I want it to be as close as possible to my memory of this dish.

Serves 2.

~ 400 g of rigatoni (or spaghetti)   /  ~ 2-3 cups freshly finely grated pecorino romano cheese (I was a bit conservative with the cheese at first but found myself adding more and more!)  /  fresh cracked black pepper  /  salt to taste (optional)

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Bring well salted water to a boil in a pot and cook the pasta until al dente.   Drain the pasta but reserve some of the pasta water.  Dish out the pasta in the bowls, add a tablespoon or two of the pasta water and quickly mix in the cheese until it becomes somewhat creamy.  Grind over as much black pepper as you like, and that is it!

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