A simple indulgence: Cacio e Pepe

When I was in university, my definition of a pasta dish was to boil water, add salt, throw in the pasta, cook, drain, and pour sauce from a jar over the result.  Sometimes, if I bothered, I would throw in some sausages or mushroom. It was really a bowl of noodles with red sauce (plus whatever leftovers I happened to have in my fridge).

It was not until years later that I discovered (gasp) not all pasta dishes involve a jar of ready-made red sauce. I learnt about the history of different pasta dishes and the type of pasta to be used for different sauces. Some of these dishes are complex and labour intensive. And some are so simple, you might do a double take on the recipe. Cacio e Pepe belongs to the latter.

Cacio e Pepe, literally meaning cheese and pepper, is the first (proper) pasta dish that I learnt how to cook – it is beautifully simple yet luxurious. There are only five ingredients to this classic Roman dish – butter, cheese, pasta, black pepper and water. The result is a rich and creamy pasta (with a bit of kick) that you cannot stop greedily slurping.

The beauty of this dish is you do not need to strictly follow the recipe – I don’t. Each time I made this dish, it is sort of different. If I ran out of Pecorino Romano, I will use Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan), or a combination of both cheeses. If I am having a bad day, I might add in more cheese and butter. You can make this dish your very own – though I beg you not to skimp on the butter and cheese.

About Mandy Ng

Mandy’s journey into the culinary world began out of necessity–a means of survival whilst she was at university. She believes cooking should be simple and fun. Besides spending time in the kitchen whipping up hearty meals, Mandy also dreams of having a bottomless stomach that she can fill with all kinds of delicious things.