Simplicity at its finest! Charred Cherry Tomato Cacio e Pepe adds yummy tomato flavor to a classic Roman pasta dish recipe staring two humble ingredients: ground black pepper and cheese; which can be your choice of, or a combination of, Parmesan, Pecorino Romano and Grana Padano. So Delicious. So Simple.
It’s been a while since I’ve visited Italy… Last time I was there was the summer of 2012 for my cousin’s wedding. As usual, the food was amazing. I discovered the best pizza napolitana in my life in Milan, discovered Risotto Milanese and all its awesomeness through my cousin who lives in northern Italy (you can make it even greater by making it in 15 minutes in a pressure cooker!), and of course demanded we get potato pizza at my aunt’s house one night – it’s become a tradition when I visit my family who lives about an hour south of Rome.
There was also one thing we needed to try, the ancient Roman pasta dish: Cacio e Pepe.
Off of binge-watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations with my family at home, we needed to eat Cacio e Pepe when we were in Italy – even if we couldn’t go where he suggested (there is a lot to do when we visit family in Italy, and on this trip there were no touristy options once we were in full wedding celebrations).
Why Cacio e Pepe off of Bourdain’s recommendation? Because Cacio e Pepe, which if you haven’t already guessed is cheese and pepper, is his favorite pasta dish.
Obviously, my mom and I needed to try some, and we got the opportunity the day after my cousin’s wedding when the immediate family all ate together in outskirts of Rome.
It was simplicity at it’s finest. Yet it was not just pasta tossed with oil, pepper and cheese – it was so much more.
The cheese and pepper coated the pasta beautifully, and although it is not very comparable, it’s essentially a Roman mac and cheese – aka. delicious comfort food.
Now I did say it was more than tossing pasta with oil, cheese and pepper. Cacio e Pepe has a thick-ish starchy coating that acts like a wonderful sauce, binding and bringing together the cheese and pepper.
The secret to this: PASTA WATER!
All the starch present in the water when you boil pasta is the ~ essential ~ ingredient to making a good Cacio e Pepe – of course, yummy cheese and freshly ground pepper are as well. It’s THE trifecta of goodness in this recipe.
What makes it even more delicious?
Charred cherry tomatoes. So simple, just char them in a bare skillet to your liking before the Cacio e Pepe process – super duper yum, and did I mention SUPER QUICK. This pasta dish is weeknight recipe goals.
Hope you enjoy!
- 1½ cups cherry tomatoes
- 4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
- ½ tbsp. freshly ground black pepper (more if desired, I know I do!)
- ½ pkg (~225g) of long pasta (spaghetti, linguini, bucatini, etc.)
- 4 tbsp. butter
- 1 cup cheese; either Pecorino Romano, Parmesan or Grana Padano, or a mix
- Salt to taste
- Cook pasta in a large pot with well-salted water for 1 minute less than package instructions, or slightly before the pasta is al dente.
- Meanwhile, char cherry tomatoes over medium-high heat in a dry skillet. Stirring often until charred, about 4 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and add 3 tbsp. of olive oil and the ground pepper until sizzling and fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add 4 tbsp. of pasta water to the skillet and stir in the butter until melted.
- Using tongs, grab the pasta out of the pot of water (do not drain the pasta in a colander, you want the extra pasta water to create the cacio e pepe sauce) and place into the skillet.
- Add cheese and the remaining 1 tbsp. of oil, start to toss the pasta to coat it well, you may need to add some more pasta water if it seems dry to bring it to a nice saucy consistency.
- Serve immediately alongside more cheese and freshly ground pepper.
Did you make this recipe?
I wanna see your tasty creations!