Cacio e Pepe

I’ve been dying to make some carbonara, but my breastfeeding wife wouldn’t eat it due to the egg yolks that go in it. So, when I saw this recipe for cacio e pepe (which I believe translates to cheese and pepper), I had to try it.

1. Roll it: the first thing I did was make pasta. I rolled out some noodles using my usual recipe.

2. Grate it: the key ingredient in this dish is pecorino romano cheese. On the episode of America’s Test Kitchen that I saw this on, they talked a lot about how important it was to have pecorino romano cheese, as domestic romano cheeses aren’t always made with the requisite raw sheep’s milk. I didn’t particularly think it necessary to heed this warning, but since Trader Joe’s has a store brand of pecorino romano cheese that was sheep’s milk, I decided I would use that.

The original recipe called for using 6 ounces of finely grated cheese. I used my not-fine grater and cut the recipe in half, since I was making about half a pound of pasta for lunch.

3. Boil it: cook the pasta in boiling water. The original recipe asks you to cook your pasta in less water than usual, the rationale being that this cheese sauce needs extra starchy liquid. I didn’t really pay any mind to this because, whenever I make pasta, the water always ends up super starchy anyway.

4. Reserve it: make the sauce by reserving some of the pasta water. I was making a half batch, so I reserved half a cup of pasta water. I ended up only using about a third of a cup though.

5. Mix it: Mix the grated pecorino romano and the pasta water with 2T of olive oil, 2T of milk, and a lot of fresh cracked pepper.

The original recipe called for heavy cream, but I didn’t have any on hand. I thought about adding butter to bump back up the milkfat to compensate for the use of 2% milk, but it didn’t need it.

Because I had the longer shreds of cheese, it didn’t seem to melt quite like it was supposed to. It had the appearance of a broken sauce, but my wife told me that it didn’t taste grainy or off at all. Next time, I will use my box grater to get a finer grate of cheese.

6. Eat it: let the sauce soak in to the noodles for a bit. Even though the sauce was a bit runny at first, it tightened up nicely after a couple minutes.

The dish turned out quite tasty. I was thinking that it would probably need salt, but I am glad I held off on it. The pecorino romano cheese was wonderful. The sauce was cheesy, salty, and nicely peppered. It was exactly what I have been hoping for and craving – a lighter and egg-free version of a carbonara. And as a bonus, it’s way easier than making a bechamel for an alfredo and it dirties fewer pots in the kitchen.

My wife and I both loved this so much, I know that it will be in the regular rotation.


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