Cacio e pepe, the right way
First and foremost, this is not a recipe. It is an explanation of what goes into it and why you do it this way. One of the most simplistic pasta dishes you can make, but not the easiest, there is a difference. There is good cacio e pepe and there is amazing cacio e pepe. It is not just the ingredients on their own that make this dish. It is the glorious sum of their parts that come together to make something wonderful.
Yes, there is a difference. How long has the peppercorns or ground pepper been in your pantry for? Months? Years? It loses flavour, just like any spice that sits around for an extended amount of time. So, fresh pepper. Toast your pepper whole and grind it as you need it. This extra step will blow your mind and the difference in flavour is incredible. I find the easiest spot to get good pepper is at an Indian spice store. Ask them for the good one, usually in the big bulk bins. I like India Spice Mart on Fraser.
Salt, good sea salt
Don’t use that iodized crap. Most people when they season pasta water put a small amount of salt in a large pot of water and wonder why their pasta is bland. Or don’t even wonder why it’s bland and have never had properly seasoned pasta. Anyway, big pot, much salt. The water should taste like the sea, don’t be shy. This is very important.
There should be no question here, dried pasta for this dish. It makes a difference. Don’t get me wrong, I love fresh pasta. However, this dish needs to be al dente in my opinion. I prefer something long like spaghetti or bucatini. There are many brands and these are a couple of my favourites. If you are at a bigger store and can’t make it to somewhere like Bosa, Cioffes or, La Grotta, then use Barilla. If you do have the time to go those stores then get Rustuchella D’Abruzzo. It has a rougher cut to it, which will grab the sauce more. In turn, making your pasta taste better.
Pecorino Romano cheese
This is the classic hard, salty, sheep’s milk cheese from Rome. It’s different from Parmigiano Regggiano or Grana Padano. It melts different and emulsifies into the dish really well to create the sauce.
So here is the main trick with this dish….timing. You don’t want your pasta to sit in the colander for any time at all while you wait for the water to reduce in the pan. Just on that note as well. NEVER RINSE YOUR PASTA!!! You need to time it so your pasta is cooked, the water is reduced, and the cheese is melted and emulsified. This also a dish that you absolutely need to eat right away. It takes no time at all, please just make it and eat it. If you want some for tomorrow, just make it again.
About Chef Alessandro Vianello
As Gooseneck Hospitality’s Development Chef, Alessandro Vianello oversees menu development and kitchen operations at all four of the company’s Vancouver restaurants – Wildebeest, Bufala, Lucky Taco and Bells and Whistles – and employs his passion for serving dishes comprising locally sourced and sustainable ingredients that underscore the bounty available to chefs plying their trade in the Pacific Northwest.
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