Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cacio e Pepe

Today I opened the May issue of Bon Appetit and found an article on making the perfect traditional pasta featuring one of my favorite chefs, Mark Ladner. Last June my friend Cody and I starred in a promotional youtube video for Del Posto and had the pleasure (twice!) of eating a 12 course meal there. Mark is probably one of the most interesting people I've ever met, and he's definitely inspired me to take italian cooking to a new level over the last year. Needless to say, I ran out and purchased all the ingredients to make every single recipe in this article over the next week!! Here's the Cacio e Pepe!

Cacio e Pepe
6 oz pasta (I used spaghetti but they also recommend tagliolini or bucatini)
3 Tbsp butter
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
3/4 c finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan
1/3 c finely grated Pecorino

Bring 3 quarts water to a boil, and add 3 Tbps kosher salt (Mark recommends making the water almost as salty as sea water). Cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the time that is recommended on the package. When draining, save about a cup of the water for the sauce.

Meanwhile, place the freshly cracked black pepper in a 10"-12" saute pan and toast on medium heat for about a minute. Mark says this draws out the essential oils of the pepper, adding to the flavor profile of the dish! Add the butter, pasta, and about 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and add Grana Padano, stirring and tossing until melted. Remove the pan from heat and add the Pecorino, stirring and tossing until the cheese melts, sauce coats the pasta, and the pasta is al dente. Add more pasta water if the sauce seems dry. Transfer pasta to warm bowls and serve!

When cracking the black pepper, I find the easiest way to do it is to place the peppercorns in a ziplock bag and whack them with a cast iron skillet. Very effective!

This was quite possibly the best dish I have ever made! As is the custom for Italian cooking, the simplicity really shined through and the few ingredients that were in this dish came together beautifully. This was so easy to make, and I would recommend it to anyone in a heart beat! If you'd like to see Mark make the dish himself, the video is here.


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