Filed under: Cooking/Food | Tags: cacio e pepe, cheap eats, pasta, pecorino romano, pepper, prosciutto cotto
My single most favorite spice is black pepper, specifically tellicherry peppercorn (with cumin closely at second). So when I saw the recipe for the classic Roman cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper) pasta, I knew it would be a winner in my (recipe) book. I mainly cook for myself, or a few non-cooking friends who almost consider me a real cook (that’s why I cook for them), so I like to toy with recipes by first following it strictly, and then attempting it again adding or replacing ingredients. I have to admit that, most of the time, the existing recipes are better than my tweaked ones. There are, however, anomalies to that scenario–my modified cacio e pepe pasta being one of them.
This picture doesn’t do the dish justice since I was so eager to taste it that I snapped the photo with no intentions.
I took a classic cacio e pepe recipe and found that I already had all the ingredients readily at hand. Here are a few things I modified to see if it could add more flavor.
First, I toasted the crushed peppercorns for a minute, then added olive oil and butter and cooked it for another couple of minutes. Then the whole pepper/oil/butter mixture is poured over the cooked pasta. Secondly, I substituted linguine for spaghetti, or in Mario’s case, bavette. Wanting a little meat, I added prosciutto cotto slices and pan fried until brown and caramelized. Then I added some frozen peas for some sweetness to balance the saltiness from the pecorino romano and prosciutto cotto. Topped with a little fresh basil and flat leaf parsley, the result was beyond my expectation.
Since making my modified version, I have looked up other cacio e pepe recipes, and found that many others do the infusing of olive oil with the pepper first instead of just grinding the pepper over the pasta. This one I found posted a version that is much creamier than mine. Her picture of the dish definitely looks much more enticing than mine.
Nonetheless, this is a must try recipe whether you like it authentic or modified. It’s spicy, salty, flavorful, not to mention easy and economical (even cheaper if you skip the prosciutto). Your taste buds, and/or friends, will thank you, just like mine did.