Recipe for perfect spaghetti cacio e pepe

One of my favourite pasta dishes (okay I admit that most pasta related dishes are my favourites) is the simple yet delicious Roman dish’cacio e pepe’. Cacio e pepe means cheese and pepper, and that is pretty much the dish, with the addition of spaghetti and a splash of cooking liquid.

Despite being a quite simple dish in terms of ingredients and time comnsumption, it’s kind of hard to get that perfect silky coating of cheese ‘sauce’ around the spaghetti. My previous versions have been a bit “lumpy”. But recently I fortunately learned a great trick: mix the grated cheese with cold water before mixing with the pasta.

Ingredients

Spaghetti (I use Martelli or De Cecco)

Pecorino cheese (in emergency use parmesan, but won’t be the same)

Black pepper

Cooking water

Salt

Preparation

1. Set pasta water to boil. Add lots of salt.

2. Mix about 2/3 of the pecorino cheese with a little bit of cold water to form a thick “paste”.

3. Cook spaghetti quite al dente (will cook some more in the sauce).

4. Drain spaghetti, but save a deciliter/half a cup or so of cooking water.

5. Combine the drained cooked spaghetti, a splash (maybe half) of the cooking water, cheese mix and a proper amount of black pepper in the cooking pot. Add heat and stirr (I use a kitchen tong) until most liquid has evaporated and the spaghetti is coated by a velvety, ‘glossy’ sauce. If needed, use the back up cooking water.

6. Serve immediately topped with remaining cheese and extra black pepper.

Foodetc’s (spaghetti) Bolognese


Bolognese, preferably with spaghetti despite the above pappardelle, is probably my all time favourite dish. Read below for my go to recipe when it comes to the classic. If you want it healthier, remove the bacon and the finishing butter which however do add a lot of taste to the dish.

Recipe is for, roughly, four persons.

What you need
500 grams of minced beef
1 yellow onion
4 cloves of garlic
2 carrots
1 (relatively) small piece of celeriac
50 grams of pancetta/bacon (optional)
3-4 tbsp dried oregano
2 chicken stock cubes
20 cl red wine
1 tin canned tomatoes (I use Mutti finely chopped tomatoes)
butter
sugar (optional)

Serve with
Spaghetti or pappardelle (I use Martelli or De Cecco)
Parmesan cheese
Red wine (sort of optional)

How to cook
1. Peel and dice carrots and celeriac into small cubes, about peanut-sized. Also peel and finely slice garlic and onion.

2. Slice pancetta or bacon (optional) into thin strips. Fry until cooked through, but before it starts to crisp.

 3. If you haven’t used bacon/pancetta heat olive oil in a saucepan or a cast-iron pot. If you have, just add the vegetables to the already hot bacon pan and use its fat to fry. Start with the minced beef, and fry until it is starting to brown.

3a. If you are feeling ambitious set aside, and then fry all the diced and sliced vegetables in olive oil in a separate pan until soft, but not browned.

3b. If you are not feeling ambitious, just chuck the veggies into the beef pot and fry together with the minced beef until soft.

 4. If not already mixed, combine vegetables and fried minced beef into a saucepan. Add canned tomatoes (and some extra water if needed), red wine, stock cubes and oregano. Cover with a lid and let simmer on medium to low heat for at least an hour, but preferably three hours or more. Check and stirr once in a while. Add more water if it gets to dry/reduced. Add a pinch of sugar if needed (taste after 15 minutes or so of cooking).

5. When about 25 minutes remain of the bolognese cooking; add salt to and heat water for the pasta (it should taste almost like sea water). Cook the pasta al dente (check the package for directions if needed).

6. When pasta is almost done, turn off the heat on the bolognese sauce and add a knob of butter (optional but very tasty) as well as some additional oregano to it.

7. When pasta is done, strain it but reserve some of the cooking liquid. Then add spaghetti, bolognese sauce and two or three tablespoons of the cooking liquid (eg. the salt water) in a bowl and mix. You can also add pasta, some of the sauce and cooking water into the pasta pan and cook together on medium heat for about a minute to flavour the pasta with the sauce. It makes the dish much tastier, trust me.

8. Serve sprinkled with grated or shaved parmesan. A glass of red wine is (almost) mandatory with this if you are a wine drinker.

A weekend of pasta in Rome

Visited Rome in November 2015 for a weekend of eating, sightseeing and general indulgence. My judgement might be slightly affected by the fact that I totally love Italian food and that the weather was 20 degrees celsius and the sun was shining. Something very important for a Swede coming from the borderline winter that is November. In short: I loved Rome, its amazing pasta, its sights, the easy walking everywhere and the friendly atmosphere in the city.

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Must visit: Colosseum.
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Must visit 2: Fontana di Trevi.

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Delicious pizza slices at Il Melograno, close to Fontana di Trevi.

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When in Rome (sorry), eat gelato! And oh how good this gelato at aptly named Wonderful Ice Cream was.

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Pantheon by night.

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Before the trip I spent considerate time researching the city’s best carbonara. One of the often-mentioned places was Armando al Pantheon. Of course I had to visit (reservations recommended), and I wasn’t disappointed. The best carbonara I’ve ever had. Creamy deliciousness with egg yolks, crunchy, fatty and salty guanciale (cured pig’s cheek) and pecorino cheese.

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A decent Saltimbocca alla Romana, not nearly as good as the carbonara, but totally edible. Pounded veal with ham and sage, cooked in a white wine reduction.

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Tasty Tiramisú. Still at Armando al Pantheon.

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Next day: The Vatican. To get into St Peter’s square itself, there’s no need to queue. To get into the museums, you can either wait in line or buy a fast track ticket. Since we had limited time we opted to buy fast track tickets from the Vatican Museums website and saved ourselves a few euros by not going through an agency. Link to where we bought our tickets, we paid roughly 20 euros a person and did not wait at all to get in.

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A decent, although not fantastic pizza diavola (spicy salami) at Il Pozzetto.

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Fast forward to dinner at Ristorante da Alessio. Bruschetta with fresh tomatoes to start.

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Truffle risotto. Not spectacular, but quite tasty nevertheless.

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Bucatini all’Amatriciana. Sort of thick spaghetti served with a very tasty tomato and guanciale sauce. Of course topped with pecorino cheese. So good!

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This was really good. A hot sizzling pan with slices of beef, potatoes, courgettes and (I know, wrong country) béarnaise sauce.

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The Vatican as seen from Castel Sant’Angelo. The Castle featured amazing views over Rome in all directions and is definitely worth a visit.

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The last meal in Rome: Tonnarelli cacio e pepe at Cotto, next door to our hotel. A delicious classic with pasta, pecorino cheese and black pepper made silky smooth combined with some of the cooking liquid. A great end to a great weekend. Pasta is, and has always been, my favorite comfort food. Usually I get disappointed when I go out and order pasta, but of course, Rome did not let me down.