Dec 13 2010

Need a dinner idea tonight?

How about Cacio e Pepe?  Also known as cheese & pepper pasta.  Also known as the perfect dinner when you're short on time, energy, and even money, but crave a rich and filling homecooked meal.

This dish is the definition of 'less is more'.  When shopping for the ingredients, you barely need to take a grocery list: spaghetti, Pecorino Romano, black pepper, olive oil.  Cacio e Pepe is also a perfect canvas for whatever ingredients you want to add.  In our case, we included broccoli, red pepper flakes for a bit of heat, and a some Pantaleo cheese, a floral, sweet goat cheese.  The key to a successful pasta dish is to prevent the creamy sauce from turning into solid cheesy chunks.  Justin has experimented enough with our recipe that he was able to write it down for me to share with you.  If you follow this--and individualize it with extra cheese or vegetables--then this pasta will quickly become a regular in your kitchen!

Cacio e Pepe


--18 oz of spaghetti (Because this dish has so few ingredients, choose a well-made, high end pasta. Note: this recipe is for 20 oz of pasta)

--8oz Pecorino Romano, grated (mostly fine, with a little coarse for topping)

--6oz Pantaleo, grated (mostly fine, with a little coarse for topping)

--1 large head of broccoli, florets only, split in thirds

--Red pepper flakes

--Black pepper

--Quality olive oil


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. When the pasta's al dente, drain and reserve up to two cups of the pasta water.


  • Grate all of the cheese and mix in a large bowl. You'll be adding the pasta, so make sure the bowl is big! Season generously with black pepper to taste and 2-3 tbs of olive oil.
  • Bring a small pot of water to a boil and par-boil the brocoli, then remove them with a slotted spoon - only about 2 minutes in the pot!
  • Bring a skillet to medium high heat and add 1 tbs of Olive Oil.  Add the broccoli and let them caramelize, so only stir occasionally to get them nice and browned. And a touch of Fleur de sel and red pepper flakes. Remove and dry with paper towels.

At this point the pasta should be done. Drain in a colander and slowly add the reserved pasta water to the cheese bowl while whisking. You should stop when the cheese mixture is thick and creamy. Add the pasta and broccoli and toss to coat evenly. Serve and then go back for seconds!