Everyday Meals

Samin Nosrat’s Pasta Cacio e Pepe Is So Much Better than Mac and Cheese

Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat is Kitchn’s September pick for our Cookbook Club. See how you can participate here.

Cacio e pepe is the Roman (and, dare I say, better) answer to macaroni and cheese. It’s traditionally made with pecorino Romano, a salty sheep’s milk cheese, and abundant ground black pepper. Take a few measures to prevent the sauce from clumping: First, use the finest grater you have to grate the cheese so it can melt readily. Next, encourage an emulsion in the pan by swirling together the pepper, oil, and starchy pasta water until it comes together. And finally, if your pan isn’t roomy enough to toss the pasta, place everything in a big bowl and toss with tongs, adding a little pasta cooking water at a time, until the sauce comes together. 

Pasta Cacio e Pepe

Ingredients

  • Salt

  • 1 pound

    dried spaghetti, bucatini, or tonnarelli pasta

  • Extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon

    very coarsely ground black pepper

  • 4 ounces

    Pecorino Romano cheese, very finely grated (about 2 cups)

Instructions

  1. Set a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Season generously with salt until it tastes like the summer sea. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Reserve 2 cups of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.

  2. Heat a large pan over medium heat and add enough olive oil to just coat the bottom. When it shimmers, add the pepper and cook until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add 3/4 cup of the pasta cooking water into the pan and let it boil — this will encourage an emulsion to form.

  3. Add the drained pasta to the hot pan, toss to coat the noodles, then sprinkle in all but a handful of the cheese. Use tongs to vigorously toss the pasta, adding more pasta water as needed to create a creamy sauce that clings to the pasta without clumping. Taste and adjust salt as needed. Garnish with the remaining cheese and more coarsely ground pepper and serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Reprinted with permission from Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat, copyright 2017, Simon & Schuster.

Buy the book: Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat

Read more: Samin Nosrat’s 10 Kitchen Essentials Every Home Cook Should Own

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