Pasta, Caccio E Pepe

Pasta, Caccio E Pepe

I’m not a fan of eating large amounts of pasta on a regular basis. When in Italy, mostly in the north, I’m served pasta in quite modest amounts as a separate course before the main. Maybe it’s different down south, but I think this is the healthier way to enjoy a bit of pasta now and then.

If you think pasta with cheese and pepper doesn’t sound like anything to write home about, well, I’m happy to say that on this occasion you’d be wrong

One of the great features of Italian gastronomy is sophistication of technique within relative, sometimes great, simplicity of ingredients. This dish, from Rome’s Lazio region illustrates this perfectly.Jump to Recipe

I’ve seen recipes adding grated cheese and a bit of pepper to pasta. Really? No! Caccio e pepe is a marriage of cheese and pepper with very lightly salted pasta water turned creamy, velvety emulsion in gastronomic heaven. It’s not hard to make, but there’s a good bit of technique. Here’s what I’ve picked up during my forays through fair Italy

TUTORIAL SUMMARY OF THE TECHNIQUE

The pepper is just lightly crushed with a pestle, then delicately dry toasted in a pan to bring out its perfume

Pecorino is the cheese of choice, though you’ll get great results with Parmesan or any hard aged ewes’ or cow’s cheese. To the fairly salty cheese you’ll be adding a little of the “glutinous”, salty pasta water. This requires that you use

  1. half the recommended amount of salt in the pasta water
  2. half the recommended amount of water in order to obtain that glutinous consistency

First time I made this I used too little water for the pasta and ended up with a delicious, but slightly dry result. Thus, I took to keeping a small saucepan of simmering water nearby, ready to come to the rescue. I rarely need it nowadays, but it helps me feel secure

You’ll need two pans, a deeper pan to pre-boil the pasta, and a wide, open frying pan, large enough to hold all the pasta with room to toss where you’ll finish off the dish

The pepper is dry toasted in the frying pan at medium heat just until its aroma is released. Once the pasta water starts to look gloopy, add a ladleful to the black pepper.

A couple of minutes of lively bubbling and you’re ready to add this to half the cheese in a bowl, whisking vigorously to dissolve it into a thin cream, then add the remaining cheese while the mixture is still hot for a thicker cream

The pasta is only partially cooked in its original pan and finished off in the secondary shallow pan along with a ladleful or two of pasta water and the caccio-pepe emulsion until al dente and immersed in creamy, velvety nectar – the aroma of which words fail to describe

Have your table very close by and your guests ready to tuck in. This dish waits for no-one.

Ready? Here’s the recipe

Pasta, Caccio E Pepe

Pasta with cheese and black pepper from Italy's Lazio region. Two ingredients, one big dish
Prep Time15 mins
cheese grating time5 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: any
Cuisine: Italian, Mediterranean
Keyword: cheese, ova-lacto, pasta

Ingredients

  • 1/2 -3/4 pounds tornarelli, spaghetti or macaroni I always use wholemeal
  • 1 cup freshly grated pecorino or parmigiano or your favourite aged HARD cheese
  • 15 black peppercorns
  • salt

Instructions

grate the cheese

  • divide your grated cheese between two bowls

cook the pasta

  • follow the instructions on the packet using half the recommended amounts of salt and water
  • optionally boil some water in a small pan and have it simmering in case you run out of pasta water!
  • Cook the pasta till al dente but still a bit hard: you'll be stealing about 3-4 minutes from the recommended cooking time
    boiling pasta

prepare the pepper

  • while the pasta is cooking coarly crush the whole peppercorns in a mortar and pestle
  • when the pasta water starts to look gloopy put the crushed peppercorns in a dry large frying pan and toast on medium heat for a few seconds to just release the aromas
  • add a ladleful of pasta water to the pepper and cook on high heat for 2 minutes. This will release the pepper's aromatic oils into the water

emulsify the cheese, pepper and water

  • add the hot peppered water to half the cheese in a bowl, stirring vigiriusly to achieve a thin cream. While still hot add the relmaining cheese. If the resulting cream is too thick add spme more of the pasta water to achieve the consistency of thick double cream

finish the dish

  • transfer the pasta to the frying pan you used for the pepper along with a couple of ladle-fuls of pasta water
  • add the cheese-pepper emulsion in 3-4 stages, tossing the pasta contiuouslty. Add more pasta water to thin out if necessary and cook for 2-3 minutes until the pasta is cooked al dente and the emulsion is creamy and smooth. If if looks over sticky add a tiny bit more water, but careful!
    caccio e pepe sauce for pasta
  • Serve immediately
Sweet Potato, Broad Bean & Feta Tortilla

Sweet Potato, Broad Bean & Feta Tortilla

What distinguishes italian frittata from Spanish tortilla? The distinction is not a culinary but a historical one. The “open-faced” omelette most likely originated in Persia. It travelled to Spain where, with the addition of potatoes fresh off the boat from the new world became the tortilla, thence to France, Italy and yonder for omelettes, frittatas and whatever else

While in Italy frittatas are thrown together out of leftovers, in Spain it’s serious business, people going to such lengths as arguing whether an authentic tortilla does or does not contain onions, with onion-ists and non-onion-ists utterly divided and sticking to their guns with zeal and passion

I use onions. They make a sweeter, juicier tortilla. And I prefer sweet to standard white potatoes (not white sweet potatoes). The reason?

∼ Sweet potatoes aren’t potatoes ∼

Ipomea Batatas is a tuber related to Morning Glory, not to the nightshades, though the two have an extremely old common ancestor. And it has several important properties:

Nutrition

Sweet potatoes have a lower glycaemic index than the white potato making it more suitable for people with type 2 diabetes

That said, the glycaemic index is still high ranging from 44 (medium category) to 94, definitely in the high group. Boiling reduces the index, while baking increases it. Worth bearing in mind

Though containing mainly starch, around 11% of this is resistant starch, broken down slowly to reduce the rate of entry into the blood-stream (the glycaemic index). Cooling after cooking, increases the resistant starch content. You’ll need to cool it down to 4C or even lower. And reheating increases resistance yet again!

Resistant starch feeds your good gut bacteria, making it a pre-biotic

Sweet potatoes also contain high levels of beta-carotene which your body can convert to vitamin A, as well as decent amounts of vitamin C and many essential minerals

It’s worth noting they also contain high levels of oxalyc acid, which may exacerbate the formation of kidney stones if you’re susceptible

Sweet Potato Tortilla With Broad Beans And Feta Cheese

Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time15 mins
pre-cooking10 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: any
Cuisine: spanish
Keyword: beans, eggs, pulses

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 medium opnion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup broad beans fresh or frozen
  • 5 eggs
  • large pinch nutmeg
  • mixed herbs of your choice fresh or dried
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 200 g Feta cheese
  • good oilive oil for frying

Instructions

  • Finely chop and soften the onion in a little oil till translucent, about 5 minutes
  • Add in finely chopped garlic and soften for a couple of minutes
  • Peel and wash the sweet potato. cut it in half lengthways and slice each half into 1/2 centimetre slices
  • cook in lightly slated water until tender but still firm
  • cook the beans in water for 7-10 minutes, depending on their size
  • in a large bowl beat the eggs with the chopped herbs and nutmeg
  • add in all the slightly cooled pre-cooked ingredients, mixing thoroughly, and adjust the seasoning to your taste
  • heat some oil in a fying pan and add half the tortilla mixture, shaking the pan to avoid sticking
  • add the crumbled feta and cover with the remaining egg mixture. Keep shaking that pan
  • once you see a fine layer of cooked egg at the base turn the heat down to low. Thicker tortillas will cook through better covered with a lid. Thinner tortillas won't need this and can be turned after as little as 2-3 minutes, depending on how runny you like your eggs
  • To turn just flip it like a pancake, or play safe (highly recommended): place an upside-down plate over the top, flip the pan over and slide the tortilla back in from the plate. Remember the tortilla is very hot, so use a dinner plate which won't burn your hand
  • I have a (well-seasoned) double tortilla pan, readily available in Spain, but believe me, people have been using the plate method successfully for centuries
    duble tortilla pan
  • enjoy hot, cold or even warm