Spaghetti cacio e pepe is probably the simplest pasta dish this side of opening up a jar of sauce and pouring it on some cooked noodles. All it really is is spaghetti with a sauce made of melted pecorina romano, fresh ground black pepper and just enough of the pasta water to form a sauce. It’s a Roman classic, and while it’s not the most exciting dish, it’s tasty, simple and good. All things I like.
I’ve never actually made it before, fearing the simplicity belied some trick I wasn’t seeing. I didn’t quite do it tonight either, instead livening things up with a paste I made from a touch of white wine and roasted garlic, and some parsley. The hardest thing about this is spending a bit of time grating all that cheese. Which means it’s really simple.
Pasta cacio e pepe with roasted garlic
About 250 grams dried pasta
100 grams pecorino romano
1 small head of garlic
2 tbsp white wine
1 tbsp olive oil + some for the roasting garlic
fresh ground black pepper
small bunch flat-leaf parsley
First, roast your garlic. I used a small head and followed this recipe. Basically, peel the outer layers away from the garlic, cover in a bit of olive oil, wrap up tight in tin foil and roast for 35 minutes in a 400 oven.
While the garlic roasts, finely grate that cheese using the small holes on a box grater and roughly chop the parsley. Grind a bunch of black pepper over the cheese, and put it to the side. The amount of pepper depends on how much you like pepper, but remember pepper is 50% of the ingredients in the original sauce recipe, so be generous.
When the garlic is done – that is, the cloves are very soft – remove from the oven and let cool. Put the water on to boil and cook the pasta according to the package instructions. I wouldn’t salt the water given all the salt in the cheese.
When the pasta hits the pot, squeeze the garlic cloves into a small sauce pan with the oil and wine. Mash the garlic with the back of a spoon until the mixture forms a paste. Cook over a low flame until you smell that the alcohol has burned off, then turn off the heat.
Reserve a cup of pasta water and drain. Return the pasta to the pot, pour over the garlic paste and sprinkle over the cheese, pepper and parsley. Start stirring, and add just enough of the reserved water to form a sauce. Then eat!
Whole thing should take not much more than 45 minutes start to finish, much of that unattended.