If you want to impress a date by cooking at home, here's your new go-to meal. It's easy to prepare (meaning no sweating in the kitchen), a definite crowd pleaser and it only requires a few ingredients, most of which, you likely already have in your pantry. A classic Roman pasta dish, the name cacio e pepe (pronounced kah-cho eh pep-ay) literally means "cheese and pepper" in Italian. Which is essentially all this recipe calls for. It's sprezzatura on a plate—casual yet nuanced, and easy to make your own. Silky and creamy with a touch of heat from the pepper, it proves that simple is by no means boring.
Because the elements of the dish are so few, quality ingredients are able to really shine. If you're buying specifically for this dish, shell out a few more bucks for hearty Italian made pasta and whole hunks of good cheese like Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino.
8 oz. of pasta like spaghetti or bucatini
3 tb. butter
2 tsp. cracked black pepper
3/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
The key to this dish is mastering the art of al dente pasta. You want the noodles to have a firm bite, so you'll take them out of the water a little early and let them finish cooking in the skillet with the sauce.
Boil a pot of water and season with salt. Add pasta and cook, removing it two minutes before the package says it will be done. Reserve a cup of the water and drain.
While the pasta is cooking, melt 2 tb. of butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add your pepper and stir for a minute or two and then add half your reserved cooking water and let it simmer a minute, then add the pasta.
Stir in the remaining butter, reduce your heat and then little by little add the cheese while tossing the pasta. It will melt into a sauce that should coat each strand, so feel free to add some of your reserved water or olive oil if the pasta seems dry. Top with a little more cheese and serve.
Make It Your Own: This also makes a great base to which you can add anything from arugula and lemon to zucchini or bacon.
A medium-bodied Sangiovese, Barbera or Chianti will complement the pasta's peppery notes.