Wish Upon A Dish: Extreme Budget, Day Five - Cacio e Pepe

November 18, 2012

Extreme Budget, Day Five - Cacio e Pepe

This meal is by far the cheapest meal all week. I will use $1.00 worth of Romano cheese I bought and that, my friend, is all. I already have the pasta and black pepper, along with Romano cheese.

If one pasta dish exemplifies the complexity of pan sauce precision, it's cacio e pepe (literally, cheese and pepper). The minimalist recipe calls for only a few ingredients and doesn't even include garlic. It's a simple standard by which cooks are measured, yet no two chefs agree on how to do it right. 

I am using a recipe from Bon Apetit and they suggest combining a milk based cheese and a sheep's milk cheese to get the right mix of velvety and sharp flavor. It also suggests cracking whole peppercorns under a pan (like for steak au poivre) to get the right sized pieces necessary for the right amount of heat required.

While we were in Rome, down in the Jewish Trestavere section, we found a small place that had gnocchi e pepe on the menu and we both ordered it. I was surprised The Nudge went for that instead of the gnocchi & gorgonzola, but since he ate the whole plate I thought I would make it for him with spaghetti, his favorite pasta shape. 

Cacio e Pepe
Adapted from Bon Apetit

* 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 Parmesan
* 1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino

1. 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.
2. Meanwhile, melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add pepper and cook, swirling pan, until toasted, about 1 minute.
3. 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 Parmesan, stirring and tossing with tongs until melted. Remove pan from heat; add Romano, 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.

This was the best pasta dish I have ever made. I'm serious. This is da bomb. OMG, I am so sorry I never bought into the wonderment of this dish, reading all the accolades. We have moved this right up to the level of Manicotti as THE best pasta dish EVER.

Please, if you ever want to surprise your family and friends, make this dish.
Please (and I know I overdid the please) you owe it to yourself to try this one time. It costs next to nothing, so there is no money down the drain if you don't like it.

MAKE THIS BLACK FRIDAY. Perfect for a busy day after buying all that Christmas loot. Easy, tasty, flavorful and requires no special skills in the kitchen to make this. I am serious, you will look like a rock star if you make this dish.

OK, done.

Total cost of this meal: $1.00
Grand Total for 5 days: $11.20
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