Cacio e Pepe

Cheese, pepper and pasta. That’s all this dish is, and it’s as brilliant as it is simple.

Cacio e pepe is a shepherds dish that is extremely popular in Rome. Whilst you’ll often see this dish marked as ‘vegetarian’ on a menu, it isn’t usually because ‘proper’ Cacio e Pepe requires Pecorino Romano, an Italian hard cheese made with animal rennet. In this recipe I’ve substituted that for a vegetarian Italian hard cheese. And since we’re not sticking to tradition, I also added a bit of thyme, because thyme is great.

  • Good quality olive oil
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 20g unsalted butter
  • 50g vegetarian Italian hard cheese, finely grated
  • A small handful of fresh thyme
  • Linguine or spaghetti
  1. Cook pasta until according to instructions on the packaging until it is al dente
  2. Whilst the pasta is cooking,  coarsely grind the peppercorns in a pestle and mortar and strip the tiny leaves off the woody thyme stalks.
  3. Heat a little olive oil in a large frying pan and add the black pepper and the thyme. Fry for a couple of minutes, or until fragrant.
  4. When the pasta is cooked, add two ladle-fulls of the starchy pasta water to the frying pan and stir in the butter.
  5. Transfer the pasta to the pan, allowing some water to travel with it, and add the cheese and 2 tsps of olive oil. Stir through until the cheese has melted. This might take a little time. You want the cheese, starchy water and fat to create a creamy emulsion, if the consistency isn’t quite right add a little more oil or water.
  6. When the ‘sauce’ has reached the correct consistency, season with a little salt and a pepper and serve!






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