“According to Romans, there’s good cacio e pepe, adequate cacio e pepe, and everything else, which is of course a sin against God.” – Anthony Bourdain
A Roman pasta dish, “Cacio e Pepe” literally means “cheese and pepper” in Italian. As the name suggests, the ingredients of the dish are very simple and typically include only black pepper and Pecorino Romano cheese. Cacio e pepe is usually made with a long, thin spaghetti, such as tonnarelli or vermicelli.
Personally, I like to use regular spaghetti, and ramp it up with a little grilled or sauteed chicken thigh, as well.
Cacio e Pepe con Pollo is my all-time favorite pasta dish. Here it is…
1 lb boneless chicken thighs
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and quartered.
1 Tbsp. good dry Italian seasonings (I like Miscuglio from Oil & Vinegar)
2 quarts chicken broth (or equiv. of Better than Bullion Chicken)
1 quart of salted water
1 pound dried spaghetti
1 3/4 cups Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated
3 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper, plus more to taste
In a large pot, bring broth and salted water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain pasta (DO NOT RINSE PASTA…EVER), reserving 2 cups of the cooking water.
Heat oil in a non-stick skilled over medium heat, saute garlic quarters until just beginning to color, then remove them from the oil (save these tasty bits to spread on bread!) Increase heat to medium high.
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Rub chicken generously with salt and Italian seasonings, and brown on both sides, until skin is crispy and meat is cooked through to your liking. Remove chicken from the skillet and allow to rest 5 minutes, then remove the skin and cut the skin into shoestrings, set aside on paper towels.
Dice the chicken to 1/2 inch dice and keep on the back of the stove to stay warm.
Drain oil from skillet, but do not wipe or rinse.
Return your non-stick skillet to medium-high heat, and (once hot) add reserved pasta broth, bring to simmer, and add 3/4 cup of Pecorino Romano, butter, and 2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper. Let simmer, stirring, for 2 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium, add pasta and tossing gently, until the noodles are well coated in sauce and the sauce beings to thicken (2-3 minutes). Add the chicken and toss to mix, just before plating.
Divide among warm bowls (or see recipe, below) and divide remaining Pecorino Romano evenly over the top. Generously grind more coarse black pepper, to taste, over the top, sprinkle with a few shoestrings of crispy chicken skin, and serve with a cool, crisp salad.
Now, this right here is a bowl full of awesome, but to make this recipe Next Level…
1 1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shredded
Olive oil cooking spray
4 small (1 cup) glass/metal bowls
Invert your bowls over paper plates. Heat a clean non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Give ‘er a little spray of oil, then sprinkle in 1/3 cup of shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano, in an even, thin layer to form a (roughly) six-inch circle.
Let cook until bubbly, and the edges begin to brown, then, using two pairs of tongs, grab the edges of the cheese at 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock and flip.
Be confident, or you’ll screw it up.
Cook one more minute, then grab the cheese again (same spots) and quickly drop it over your inverted cup. Pinch the fold slightly with you tongs to help create the bowl shape.
Let cool and rest 2-3 minutes, and your bowl is ready to hold cacio e pepe.
Always a crowd-pleaser!