Few dishes offer the same rich payoff from very little effort as cacio e pepe. Translating from Italian as literally ‘cheese and pepper’, there’s not much more that needs to go into this pasta to make it a creamy, flavourful dream. However, arguably the more simple the dish, the more vital impeccable execution becomes. Gavin Doyle, Executive Chef of Soul Bar & Bistro, certainly agrees, sharing his recipe for mouth-watering cacio e pepe — plus, some key tips for making it the best it can be.
“This simple pasta dish is the epitome of ‘the basics made brilliant’, offering a great reward from some humble ingredients. Always toast the peppercorns in a dry pan before crushing them — it awakens the aromas and will elevate your eating experience even further. The pasta water is what really brings cacio e pepe together and, while you wouldn’t expect to hear this from a chef, store-bought, dried pasta is absolutely fine for this dish.”
Soul Bar & Bistro’s Cacio e Pepe Recipe
110g spaghetti (store-bought is fine)
3g black peppercorns (freshly toasted and crushed)
50g parmesan, grated
Pinch flaky sea salt
1 cup pasta water saved for sauce
1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and season heavily with salt. Cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions.
2. Put a medium pan on the heat. When hot, add half of the butter. As it starts to separate, it will turn brown and smell nutty. Add the peppercorns at this stage and take the pan off the heat momentarily.
3. When the spaghetti is cooked to al dente, drain it but make sure you save a cup of the cooking water. Add the cooked spaghetti to the pan with about 100ml of pasta water.
4. Toss the pan immediately, and keep tossing — this action will create the sauce. Add 2 large tablespoons of parmesan and the rest of the butter. Keep tossing to desired consistency. The pasta water, cheese and butter will emulsify into a delicious sauce.
5. If the sauce looks too dry, add a bit more pasta water to loosen it up. The sauce should coat all the pasta.
6. Plate up in a nice pasta bowl and generously cover in parmesan. Season with a pinch of flaky salt and serve.