Cacio e Pepe, translated Cheese and Pepper, is a very ancient Roman dish, probably cooked by shepherds for centuries, maybe millennia! It is basically cheese and black pepper coated pasta.
The pasta used is usually a spaghetti-like, dry pasta, but it really depends on your region or your tastes. The dish is originally Roman, I believe, so a Roman pasta, like Bucatini is appropriate.
I like a bronze cut dry pasta that has rough edges to catch the sauce. Chitarra from Abruzzo is my favorite, the dry variety not the egg pasta. You can use linguine, spaghetti, strongozzi, substantial pasta, not a soft, smooth one like Capelli d'angeli.
It is so simple you really do not need a recipe to prepare it. Toast some ground or cracked black pepper, add cooked pasta, cheese, salt and pasta water. Toss until it coats the pasta, add more cheese and pepper if you like and SAVOR!
In Campania you can now find Caciobufala, made with Water Buffalo milk as is the well known and exquisite, Mozzarella di Bufala. This is the most ancient and real Mozzarella. I have yet to try it, but imagine the Cacio would be very special too, creamy and soft.
My Cacio e Pepe recipe is a little more modern and may be considered inauthentic by purists, because I use oil, butter and Parmesan in addition to the Pecorino and pasta water. I assure you it is unctuous and creamy. Even Mario Batali himself uses these additions, so I could not be straying too far from real!!
CACIO E PEPE with CHITARRA sola style
4-6 ounces chitarra or other spaghetti pasta
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese
Reserved pasta water
Start to boil the water for your pasta.
Toast the pepper in a skillet large enough to hold the pasta when cooked.
Add 1 tablespoon butter and oil until butter melts and mixes with the pepper.
Cook the pasta al dente, usually about 9-11 minutes for the appropriate type of pasta.
Drain and reserve about 1/2 cup pasta water.
Add pasta to the skillet and about 1/4 cup water, some Parmesan, Pecorino and salt. Toss to coat pasta. To make a creamy sauce add more water if necessary, the remaining oil and butter and top with cheese.
If you wish you may garnish with more pepper, parsley or toasted breadcrumbs.