While in Rome back in 2013, we went to a restaurant that was known for their Cacio e Pepe (translation: pasta with Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper). We had dinner with a new Roman friend and all ordered different dishes – Jimmy being the only one to order the Cacio e Pepe. One of the cooks came out and bluntly informed us that one of us would need to change our order because we could only order two different dishes due to the number of available burners on the stovetop in the kitchen. I stuck with my original order of bucatini, (confession: it was the only pasta on the menu I could pronounce). Our new friend graciously changed his pasta order to Cacio e Pepe. When the pastas came to the table I immediately had order envy. No one told me the Cacio e Pepe would come in an edible parmesan cheese bowl, aka frico.
You may be wondering why I’m the one narrating for this traditional Italian dish. It’s because Jimmy (because he is a pasta snob) probably wouldn’t include the frico recipe, so you’re welcome.
If you’re ever given the opportunity to make a bowl composed of cheese you must do it, it really does elevate this classic dish. It will impress your guests and, if you are a parent, your kids will get a kick out of it too.
Now here’s my husband who likes to explain making pasta in a way that can only be described as falling in love for the first time …
Cacio e Pepe is a Roman classic. It is also one of those Italian dishes that is extraordinarily simple: 4 ingredients – pasta, black pepper, Pecorino Romano cheese, and pasta water. If executed properly, it’s amazing. Here are some tips to help you prepare it like a real Roman!
I’d recommend seeking out a pasta that has been extruded through a bronze die (such as Rustichella d’Abruzzo). You’ll notice with these pastas that they have a rough texture which allows the sauce to better “cling” to the noodle.
Pecorino Romano, the hard and salty sheep’s milk cheese from Italy is the only way to go here.
The Pasta Water:
It should taste as salty as a really well seasoned chicken soup or ramen broth.
In this dish there is absolutely no substitute for fresh cracked black pepper. I like it cracked roughly for Cacio e Pepe.
In my opinion the key to a great Cacio e Pepe is to add enough pasta water at the end so that there is a bit of a creamy texture but not so much that all the cheese melts completely. I like some of the cheese to stick to the noodle in a semi-melted way that gives it an awesome texture.
After you plate it up in the parmesan frico bowl don’t forget to be generous with the Pecorino on the finish!
Preston was a fan (of his mini version without the pepper)
Here’s what the Frico prep looks like (see the recipe below for instructions):
Before the oven:
Out of the oven and onto the bowl:
Mold it to the bowl with a paper towel:
Fine tune it with bare hands:
Let it cool, then remove it from the bowl and you’re good to go.
note: the Spaghetti link on this page is an Amazon Affiliate link.