Tuesday 31 March 2015

cacio e pepe

last year we watched a program from Anthony Bourdain and he was in italy. I love italy and anything to do with italy, including the food and the language.

i studied italian for many years, but sadly i rarely get to speak it.  when i did show an interest in the language, it became quite apparent to me at the time, that i should learn the language after i began having dreams in italian, where i was talking to old italian women and in my dream i was speaking the language, even though i had no idea what i was saying.  so i took myself off to the Dante Alighieri and then onto study at university and then it all just fell by the wayside.

so back to anthony bourdain and the show.  he was in a particular town and ordered what he said was a very traditional pasta dish called cacio e pepe, which is just basically pasta with cheese and pepper. i was quite intrigued by this and set about googling till i found something that looked like it did on the good old telly, so i decided to give it a try. (not my photo by the way)
when making this dish, the aroma is quite intoxicating, as you have to fry the pepper on its own, similar to what you do when tempering indian spices.  I love the smell so much that i actually got some pepper oil from perfect potion and use it in a burner. apparently it promotes confidence and focus.  what's not to like about that!

i caught up with some girlfriends on the weekend and we went to lunch at the spaghetti house in south bank and there was so much great vegetarian food to choose from but i was instantly drawn to the cacio e pepe.
I would know if i was on the right track having tasted it from an italian establishment.  mine came served in this parmesan basket which was super tasty and the spaghetti was lovely - with all the right flavours, and it hate to say it but there is a but....one thing i found when making mine was that if you put the cheese in while it's too hot, it goes sticky, not saucy and my dish at the restaurant had this happen - but it didn't stop me eating it.

I am going to share my version of cacio e pepe, cause i was right on track with what i made taste wise, as to what i had at the restaurant.

You need spaghetti ( i used about 2/3 pack of barilla spaghettini 3, which takes 5 minutes to cook), pepper, butter (about 2 ounces) and quite a lot of grated parmesan cheese (about 3/4 cup or more if you love it) and a little bit of olive oil.

Trick for new players - you can either cook the spaghetti slightly beforehand and keep some of the pasta water or hot water to dunk it back into to wash the starch off, or cook the spaghetti and sauce simultaneously and drain the pasta straight into the sauce.

start by dry frying the pepper - you will want quite a bit to give it the warm flavour that it creates. and it will only take a few minutes for this. once it begins to give off the aroma, you can then turn down the heat and add the butter and let it just melt into the pepper and then let it start to sizzle a bit.  even add a little bit of olive oil here just to add extra moisture and let it heat as well.
turn the heat down and it's now that you add the pasta - either straight from the hot water, or from what was cooked earlier.
gently stir it through to coat the pasta with the pepper sauce.  if you intend to put the cheese in at this point, don't do it while it is still really hot, or it will split and not become sauce like.  last night i added the cheese in 2 goes, off the heat and stirred one section trough then let the next lot just sit on the top and slowly melt.

the first time i made it, i served it with rocket as i thought the peppery flavour of the rocket would enhance it, but it didn't, it just seemed to make it a bit bitter. so now, i either have it by itself, or like i did last night with baby beets and tomatoes and a flat bread i love to make using flour, yoghurt and topped with garlic and oil.  sadly that picture must have happened in my mind, cause i can't find it anywhere.
enjoy. and my plan is that if i go back to italy, i will be testing cacio e pepe in every village or town and i hope that it's something that you might try to make.

buon appetito, mangiare sempre e buona fortuna!

No comments:

Post a Comment