Two summers ago in Italy I stumbled upon the ultimate bite. Perfectly simplistic Cacio E Pepe. An Italian favorite, the pasta dish that is in essence cheese and pepper. The minimalist recipe calls for only a few ingredients, highlighting instead, the exuberance of pan sauce precision.
While in Italy, I ate the dish often. At least once a day but really, more likely, twice. Since returning to the States I’ve found only few reiterations that have done the Italian dish justice.
One of those, was this past weekend, at Danny Meyer’s Gramercy spot, Maialino. There to celebrate mine and my father’s birthdays (we were born on the same day, cute I know, right?) this was a no hold barred kind of meal. Bread baskets, kale kohlrabi salad, roasted brussel sprouts, salted cod and triggerfish all impressed. But the standout dish of the night was non other than me beloved cacio e pepe. Coated onto fresh tonnarelli pasta, the pecorino and pepper concoction took my right back to the vibrant streets of Rome. The next time I’m wishing I was back in the land of pasta and vino, you know where I’ll be headed: straight to Maialino.
Can’t wait to check out Danny Meyer’s restaurant but want to try your hands at making your own? Here you go. You can thank me later.
- Kosher salt
- 6 oz. pasta (such as egg tagliolini, bucatini, or spaghetti)
- 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed, divided
- 1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
- 3/4 cup finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan
- 1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino
Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a 5-qt. pot. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup pasta cooking water.
Meanwhile, melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add pepper and cook, swirling pan, until toasted, about 1 minute.
Add 1/2 cup reserved pasta water to skillet and bring to a simmer. Add pasta and remaining butter. Reduce heat to low and add Grana Padano, stirring and tossing with tongs until melted. Remove pan from heat; add Pecorino, stirring and tossing until cheese melts, sauce coats the pasta, and pasta is al dente. (Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry.) Transfer pasta to warm bowls and serve.