Meet my friends, Cacio and Pepe. Cacio is pale white, from the countryside outside of Rome. Pepe is black as night, of mysterious origins. Their relationship is still taboo in most of America. As a matter of fact, I’ve never seen them together outside of New York (where there is a restaurant named in their honor). If they ever were to make it down South, who knows what the reaction would be… Oh my!
Actually, this should come as no surprise because one in the relationship is very salty and the other very peppery, and together, they can be downright explosive — a real shock to the senses for the unfamiliar. Now in Rome, where minds are more open, Cacio and Pepe can be found on almost every corner, like Dolce & Gabbana. Usually seen with their friends, Spaghetti and Tonnarelli, they make everyone happy. We can only hope that someday Cacio and Pepe will be fully accepted in America.
p.s. Check out our wine pairings to complement this dish.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
Coat the bottom of a large skillet with the olive oil.
Add the Pecorino to a bowl.
Cook the pasta until al dente (about 2 minutes less than the package directions). While it’s cooking, take 3-4 tablespoons of the water and mix into the Pecorino, creating a creamy mixture. Stir in the pepper. Drain the pasta and reserve some of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the oiled skillet over low heat, making sure not to fry the spaghetti, but rather only to coat it with oil. Mix in the cheese and pepper, and add a bit more of the reserved cooking water, as necessary, until a creamy consistency is achieved.
Serve immediately. Add more pepper to taste.
You may need to practice a couple of times to get the right mixture and consistency. Also, Caveat Cheese Emptor: the word cacio is used for cheese in Lazio, so be aware that the brand Cacio de Roma is not what you need, despite its name. Use a good Pecorino Romano, freshly grated.