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Published on April 22, 2012 by Cara @ Due Spaghetti
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A plate of cacio e pepe with a fork.Rome is almost 3,000 years old. Or at least it will be in just over 200 years. According to legend, Romolo founded the city on April 21st of 753 B.C.  But to understand that story, we should back up a few more years to the almost tragic birth of Romolo e Remo, or Romulus and Remus, as they are called in English.

Purportedly conceived by their mother, Rhea, a Vestal Virgin, and the god Mars, the twins were abandoned at birth, placed in a basket, and floated down the Tiber River. The river was in flood stage, though, and their basket eventually washed to shore, where a lupa (she-wolf) found them and nursed them to health. The boys were eventually adopted and raised by a shepherd and his wife. Upon reaching adulthood, the boys decided to found a town at the same location where the lupa found and nursed them. They argued over the hill the new city should be built upon, though. Romolo wanted the town built on the Palatine Hill, while Remo preferred the Aventine Hill. In the quarrel that ensued, Romolo killed Remo, becoming the sole namesake of the city of Roma.

To commemorate Rome’s compleanno (birthday), we prepared one of the four quintessential Roman pastas, cacio e pepe, a classic of the cucina povera Romana. Cacio e pepe is made from just three ingredients: the hard, sharp, and salty sheep’s cheese Pecorino romano, cracked black pepper, and spaghetti. Disregard recipes that call for blends of cheeses, olive oil, or other ingredients – that’s not the real thing.

Cacio e pepe is a fixture on the menu of Rome’s traditional osterie and trattorie, and a fantastic pasta to make on a whim. Despite its simplicity, it requires the right technique to prepare it well. In a well-executed cacio e pepe, the Pecorino will turn creamy and smooth, coating the spaghetti perfectly.

Wine Pairing
One of our favorite wines to enjoy with cacio e pepe is an Orvieto from Argillae. It’s a bright, fresh white wine that holds up well with simple dishes like cacio e pepe. Stefano met one of the owner and wine makers, Giulia di Cosimo, granddaughter of founder Giuseppe Bonollo. Her authentic love for her work and the wines they produce was inspiring. 

A plate of cacio e pepe with a fork.

Cacio e Pepe

Yield: 4-6 servings

Cacio e pepe is a fixture on the menu of Rome’s traditional osterie and trattorie, and a fantastic pasta to make on a whim. Despite its simplicity, it requires the right technique to prepare it well. In a well-executed cacio e pepe, the Pecorino will turn creamy and smooth, coating the spaghetti perfectly.

Ingredients

  • 1 package spaghetti
  • 250 grams grated Pecorino Romano
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil, and toss an abundant handful of salt into it.
  2. Add the pasta, and cook until al dente according to the time specified on the package.
  3. While the pasta is boiling, grate your cheese and have your black pepper ready to grind.
  4. Just before draining the pasta, remove several cups of the pasta water and set aside.
  5. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and return it immediately to the hot pot it cooked it. 
  6. Add one ladle of the preserved cooking water and about 3/4 of the grated cheese, and toss together vigorously with two forks so that the cheese melts into a smooth sauce.  If it seems too dry, add a little more of the cooking water.  If it is too runny, add more cheese.  
  7. Grind black pepper abundantly over the pasta, toss again.
  8. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of grated Pecorino Romano on top.

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