Spaghetti al cacio e pepe

Spaghetti al cacio e pepe. From Rome. This is another recipe that I cook a lot, but have never got around to posting. Spaghetti (vermicelli is a synonym for spaghetti) with pecorino and black pepper sauce. Anyone who has ever been to Rome will know it. It seems like almost every trattoria there has it on the menu.   It is very simple, just three ingredients, but one of my favourite ways to eat pasta. It  is always worth spending a little more to get really good quality ingredients, but it is especially important to use good cheese with this dish. Use a good Pecorino Romano DOC (PDO). Serves 4.

Spaghetti al cacio e pepe finished dish

Spaghetti al cacio e pepe finished dish

Spaghetti al cacio e pepe ingredients

Spaghetti al cacio e pepe ingredients

Roughly crack the pepper corns. You can use a pestle and mortar, or as I do a coffee grinder. How much you add is a matter of taste, but it’s very important that it should be freshly ground. Don’t grind it too finely.

Cracked pepper

Cracked pepper

Cook the pasta until it is al dente  and drain, reserving some of the cooking water.

Spaghetti al cacio e pepe mixing the pasta

Spaghetti al cacio e pepe mixing the pasta

Mix the pasta together with some of the cooking water and most of the cheese. You should obtain a creamy sauce that coats the spaghetti well. If the sauce is too wet, add some more cheese. Likewise, if the sauce is too dry, add some more cooking water. Add the pepper and mix again. Serve topped with the rest of the cheese.

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Carbonara – Authentic recipe

Lazio crestFrom Lazio.  What is Carbonara? If You ask an Englishman they’ll probably tell you it’s a dish prepared with cream and ham! Nooooooo!!!!! 😉 More crimes against Italian food have been committed under the name of Carbonara than any other dish.
So, in an attempt to set the records straight, I present the authentic recipe (as deposited in the archive of Acadamia Italiana della Cucina). No cream! No ham! And don’t you dare cook the eggs! 🙂 Serves 6.

  • 600 grams spaghetti or bucatini
  • 120 grams guanciale or pancetta — diced or cut into strips
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 medium eggs (very fresh)
  • 100 grams mixed Parmesan and pecorino Romano (or all pecorino) — grated
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Cook the guanciale in a pan along with the whole peeled garlic clove and a little oil, until the guanciale is well coloured. Discard the garlic.
  2. Beat the eggs in a bowl with a little of the cheese and a pinch of salt.
  3. Cook the pasta until al dente, drain and add to the pan with the guanciale.
  4. Lower the heat to a minimum and add the egg mixture. Mix well. Be careful not to let the eggs set. If the dish is a little dry, beat in a little of the pasta cooking water. This is not mentioned by the academy, but some people say it’s essential for the “creaminess” of the sauce.
  5. Remove from the heat and add the rest of the cheese. Mix again and serve immediately.

Here’s a quote from Kate/Susan over at Kate, Katie, Susan, Sue who cooked the recipe as part of an Italian evening.

“That carbonara was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten, certainly the best pasta dish I’ve ever eaten. I would rank it above lasagna in my estimation.”

And this one’s from Cui at Equipoised.

The bottom line… carbonara typically feels too heavy and sickening after a while because of the addition of cream (an American adulteration). The egg way produces a much lighter, more palatable dish. And it was really the best carbonara I’ve ever had, ever. I tend to serially order carbonara at Italian restaurants because it is by far my favourite pasta, and I’ve had a lot of carbonara, but I feel like I can’t have it with cream any more after trying this.

Spaghetti amatriciana

Lazio crestSpaghetti all’ amatriciana. From Lazio. This is another Italian classic. Pasta with pancetta (or guanciale if you want to be really authentic), tomatoes and chilli. It is more traditionally served with bucatini, but is just as often served with spaghetti. Serves 4.

Spaghetti amatriciana ingredients

Spaghetti amatriciana ingredients

  • 360 grams Spaghetti
  • 100 grams pancetta — cubed
  • 1 onion — thinly sliced
  • 500 grams tomatoes — peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 fresh (or dried) chilli — seeded and chopped
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese to serve (optional)
  1. Grease a flameproof casserole with oil, add the pancetta and cook over a low heat until the fat starts to run.
  2. Add the onion and cook until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the tomatoes and chilli, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook for about 40 minutes. If it looks like drying out, add a little water.
  4. Serve with the cooked spaghetti.
Spaghetti amatriciana finished dish

Spaghetti amatriciana finished dish