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Features

Pepper Perceptions: Challenge Your Taste Buds

DZ

Diane Zatz

Diane Zatz is a design educator who grows vegetables and cooks obsessively when not clicking on a computer keyboard.

In the symphony of flavors that grace our kitchens, the peppermill often stands silently by while other spices get the applause. 
It's time to awaken your palate to a world where not all black peppercorns are created equal.

Cacio e Pepe

EB

Diane Zatz

Edward Bottone is a food and lifestyle journalist, a former chef and restaurateur, TV and radio presenter, and culinary educator.

Cacio e Pepe, meaning “cheese and pepper” in Italian, is a minimalist pasta dish with roots in ancient Rome. Traditionally favored by shepherds for its easily transportable ingredients, this dish has stood the test of time. Recently it has become quite trendy. Its success relies heavily on the quality of two key components: freshly ground black pepper and Pecorino Romano cheese. The right black pepper, fragrant and spicy, is essential. This dish showcases how simple ingredients, when chosen with care, can create a deeply satisfying meal.

In Rome, try Cacio e Pepe at Da Enzo 29 Via Dei Vascellari 29, Rome. It’s busy; expect to wait, and to eat outside.

Preparation

  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil, filling pot slightly less than normal.*

2. Add pasta and cook, stirring frequently, until al dente, about 10 minutes (see package directions). Drain pasta, reserving about 1 liter (4 cups) pasta cooking liquid in another saucepan, and keep warm.

3. In the same pot used to cook the pasta, heat the oil, pepper, and butter over high heat, stirring, until fragrant. Add about a cup of pasta cooking liquid, bring to a boil, stirring until reduced by half.

4. Add pasta and about 237 ml (1 cup) of pasta cooking liquid and cook over high heat, stirring vigorously to help draw starch from pasta, until sauce is thickened, about 4-5 minutes.

5. Lower heat to a simmer, and add about another cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Add  Pecorino Romano in large handfuls, stirring and tossing vigorously with tongs, until very creamy sauce forms. (Add more cooking liquid if the sauce is too thick, more cheese if too thin). Add the coarsely ground black pepper of your choice.

6. Transfer to warm serving bowls; serve immediately with more Pecorino Romano on the side; pass the pepper mill.

*This increases the amount of starch leached from the pasta.

Edward Bottone

Edward Bottone is a food and lifestyle journalist, a former chef and restaurateur, TV and radio presenter, and culinary educator.

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