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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wednesday Dinner #13- Cacio e Pepe

My mom bought me a copy of Cooks Illustrated magazine for Christmas. It's awesome! I made some killer red beans and rice on Monday with a recipe from it. SO good. Maybe someday I'll share the recipe for that...but today I'm talking about something totally different.

This issue had a great article about this special kind of Romano cheese. Pecorino Romano. It's a hard salty sheep milk cheese that's usually imported from Italy (hence the Roman-o). The article made the cheese and the spaghetti recipe that went with it sound so awesome. So when I happened to see a special on this very particular cheese at Whole Foods, I had no choice, I felt, but to snatch it up.

This cheese has a real spicy aspect to it, which makes it go especially well with this spaghetti dish's number 2 ingredient: Pepper!

Kevin got Paul and I this beautiful mortar and pestle as a Christmas gift. I used it to ground up the whole black peppercorns I had in my cupboard to give this dish a fresh ground deliciousness.

The whole ingredient list goes as follows:
(serves 4 to 6)

1 lb Spaghetti
6 ounces of cheese, 4 ounces finely grated, 2 grated coarsely
2 Tbsp heavy cream
2 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 cup reserved pasta water

So continuing on with my theme of "spaghetti with stuff on it"....

Basically, you cook the pasta, and reserve the cooking water.
Take 1 cup of that reserved water and mix it with the finely grated cheese. The reason you use the cooking water is the starch in it is supposed to prevent the cheese from clumping up. In fact, a great portion of the article on this dish was devoted to cooking it without making the cheese clump. They go into these very sciencey explanations about lipoproteins and fats and such. I followed the directions to a t though, and my sauce still clumped up. It didn't stop it from being delicious though, so I have no complaints.
After mixing the water and cheese, you add the pepper, cream and oil. Voila, you've got a sauce. You use the remaining 1/2 cup of reserved water to adjust the consistency.

My version certainly didn't come out as "a light perfectly smooth sauce", as the boast in the magazine. But like I said, that didn't stop it from being delicious. This Romano was very flavorful and tasty, cheese fans everywhere should give it a try. :)

I guess since I gave that previous spaghetti dish a grade, I'll give this one too. I give it an A. It might have gotten that plus if the article hadn't spent so much time telling me there would "not be a clump in sight". Liars!

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