Mac & Cheese – Italiano!

Cacio e Pepe – Cheese and Black Pepper – that’s it!  It’s a Roman staple and the easiest most delicious dinner to make, any day of the week!  First things first – have about 2 cups freshly grated Romano and/or Parmesan cheese.  Either grate it yourself or buy it fresh grated.  (No green cans here!)

Dish of spaghetti with white cheese sauce

Cacio e Pepe

Bring a pot of water to a boil, and try using less water than normal when cooking pasta.  (One of the secrets to the ‘cheesy’ sauce is the starchy pasta water.  The less water, the more starch!)  Once you salt the water (like the sea,) add the pasta and cook to al dente.  Meanwhile, melt about 3-4 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Once melted, add about a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.  Simmer and whisk for about a minute, then add about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.  Whisk around and remove from heat.  Let stand about 3 minutes.

After about 3 minutes, start adding the grated cheese, little by little, and you’ll see a black pepper cheese sauce start to form.  (Do this too quickly after taking the butter/water off the heat and you’ll end up with glue!)  Keep adding the cheese until it’s all incorporated.  The cheesy black pepper sauce will be fairly thick.

Before draining the pasta at al dente, reserve about another cup of pasta water to the side.  Drain pasta and let stand about 3 minutes.  Again, too hot, the cheese will turn to glue.  Add the pasta, one bunch at a time and continue to toss around in the cheese sauce.  Add a little more pasta water, as needed, to lighten the sauce.  Once it’s mixed, you’re ready to eat!  A little extra grated cheese at this point won’t hurt anything!  Buon appetito!  Ci vediamo presto!

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