In honor of His Holiness Pope Francis, I wanted to prepare a popular Roman meal, Cacio E Pepe. This week Pope Francis made a visit to New York City where he addressed The United Nations, visited Our Lady Queen of Angels school in Harlem, presided over Mass in Saint Patrick Cathedral, Madison Square Garden and Downtown at the 9/11 memorial and took a motorcade through Central Park where he was greeted by 80,000 people.
I was very fortunate to be able to see Pope Francis in Central Park with a dear friend of mine, Nelson. A once in a life time experience that was very special for the both of us.
Since the Pope is still in the United States, currently in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I thought it would be appropriate to create a Roman, delicious treat. Who does not love a nice, creamy, cheesy plate of macaroni and cheese? Yum! It’s a world wide comfort food, prepared in many different ways, but with the main basic ingredient…cheese.
Here in the USA, you can purchase many different boxed mac and cheese varieties or make your own. But they all basically use the same type of cheeses and do not offer that next level of food sophistication. Until now, a classic, yet easy to prepare Italian recipe called Cacio E Pepe, translating into Cheese and Pepper.
A very popular dish originating in Italy, Cacio E Pepe is the ultimate, the caviar of mac and cheese. And to bring it up a notch or two I prepared a Parmesan cheese bowl to serve the pasta in. Wow, even more cheese! Your family and friends will be very impressed with your cooking skills, although it only took you a few minutes to prepare. And as a side note, you can make these Parmesan crisps at another time and serve with wine and fruit. Instead of forming them into a bowl, leave them flat after cooking and once cooled, break up into large chunks. Wow, you have now truly become a kitchen Goddess!
Okay, back to this heavenly dish of cheese. This is such a basic meal to prepare, but you really need to have all of your ingredients ready to go before you start to cook, because everything comes together very quickly. So grate your cheeses, measure out your pepper and make your Parmesan bowls first. Actually, this is how you should prepare all of your menus, have everything measured and ready to go, that way you don’t get confused and it makes your time in the kitchen a better experience.
So I hope you will try this recipe and provide me your feedback and as always, Enjoy!
Cacco e Pepe with Spaghetti
(cheese w/cracked pepper)
Ingredients: Serves 4
1 pound dry spaghetti
2 tablespoons freshly cracked black pepper
1 1/2 cups grated pecorino romano cheese + extra for serving
1 cup reserved hot cooked pasta water
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once it’s boiling generously salt the water. Add in the pasta and occassionally stir to prevent sticking. Cook just under one minute of package directions. Cook to al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the starchy water and set aside.
Warm up a large pasta bowl for preparing the pasta and serving it. Once the pasta is “al dente” using tongs, add the pasta to the bowl. Add in the cracked pepper and half of the cheese. Quickly but carefully, using your tongs, twist the cheese and pepper mixture into the pasta. Add in some of the reserved pasta water and keep twisting. You do not want any cheese clumps. Add in the rest of the cheese and amalgamate with more water, as needed to create a creamy sauce. Serve immediately. Pass more pecorino cheese to serve. Enjoy!