The food traditional to Roman Cuisine is all about using fresh and seasonal ingredients.
Typical dishes consist of peas, artichokes, fava beans, shellfish, milk-fed lamb and goat, chicken, and cheeses such as Pecorino Romano and ricotta. Not surprisingly, olive oil is used mostly to dress raw vegetables. Pork lard and fat from prosciutto are both preferred for frying. Personally, I found pizza made in a wood-fired oven to be a huge thing in Rome and actually all over Italy.
Special dishes are often reserved for different days of the week; for example, Gnocchi is eaten on Thursdays, Baccalà (salted cod) on Fridays, and Trippa on Saturdays.
Pasta is a big deal in Rome with spaghetti being the most popular shape. Dishes such as cacio e pepe, gricia, carbonara, and amatriciana are all versions of the same dish, just with variations of the ingredients.
Alfredo was invented in Rome. A hugely popular dish, it’s almost impossible to find in Rome!
Today’s Recipe: Cacio e Pepe
Years ago, I saw a cooking show that featured Cacio e Pepe and it intrigued me enough to try the recipe. The show taught me that the secret to making this dish a success is the type of cheese you use. The chef insisted on Pecorino Romano. Who am I to question the words of a professional chef? So, every time I make this dish, that’s what I use. Each and every time I visit Rome, I try a different restaurant that features this fabulous dish. On my last visit, I ate Cacio e Pepe at a restaurant right around the corner from the Trevi Fountain.
About Cacio e Pepe:
Cacio e Pepe (pronounced ca-cho ee pepe) translates to “cheese and pepper”. It simply consists of spaghetti, black pepper, and Pecorino Romano. That’s really all there is to it. The one issue some people run into when making this dish is that the cheese can clump up when tossing it together with the pasta. To keep this from happening, add some warm pasta water. The starch in the water creates a creamy consistency that perfectly coats the pasta.
ROMAN CUISINE; THE CACIO E PEPE RECIPE:
- 8 oz uncooked spaghetti
- 2 tbsp salted butter
- ½ c freshly grated Pecorino Romano plus more for garnishing
- ½ tsp cracked black pepper
- red pepper flakes or pre-made spice for AOP (optional and to taste. Personally, I love the addition of the red pepper flakes!)
- Add a chicken bouillon cube to a large pot of water, and bring it to a boil.
- Add pasta and cook until al dente.
- Drain pasta, saving some pasta water.
- Place skillet (or same pot used to cook pasta) over medium heat and add pasta back into the pot. Add reserved pasta water and butter.
- Mix together tossing with tongs and two forks.
- Add grated cheese and cracked black pepper (and the red pepper flakes, if using) and continue to toss together until the sauce comes together and is smooth and creamy.
Serve this dish with a leafy green salad using a balsamic vinegarette dressing and some crusty Italian bread.
If you happen to have leftovers, they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Whether you are re-heating the stovetop or in the microwave, add a bit of water to moisten. Heat just enough to warm the pasta up. Over-heating will dry it out and that, my friends will not be very tasty. Garnish with additional cheese.
As with many leftovers, they are better the next day after the seasonings have set. Such is the case with Cacio e Pepe.
Summing It Up; Roman Cuisine:
Cacio e Pepe is super simple and delicious. Whether you are preparing it for a quick weeknight meal or serving it to guests, as a cook, you will shine like a superstar! The flavor of this dish seems like it took hours to cook but in reality, you spent less than 30 minutes in the kitchen!
Please feel free to leave comments on your experience with this recipe or submit your version of this authentic Roman dish via the contact tab on the site.
Until next time friends, remember “To Travel is to Live!”