Cacio e pepe: Italy's beloved three-ingredient pasta dish

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Cacio e pepe: Italy's beloved three-ingredient pasta dish - BBC

With only three simple ingredients, cacio e pepe is a rich pasta dish that’s hard not to love. And when you do get that elusive texture, it becomes the ideal comfort food.


Cacio e pepe is a dish of only three ingredients, two of which are evident at first glance to anyone familiar with Roman dialect. Cacio is Romanesco for sheep’s milk cheese. Along with pepe, or black pepper, the cheese – ideally Pecorino – unites with pasta (and a hefty dose of starchy cooking water) to form a rich, creamy sauce that is as delicious as it is difficult to perfect.

According to legend, the dish first appeared centuries ago among shepherds spending the spring and summer months in the grazing meadows of the Apennine Mountains, which traverse the Italian peninsula. While keeping watch over their flocks, shepherds would tap into personal stores of dried pasta and pepper; cheap, easy to transport and resistant to spoilage, these two ingredients were combined with the cheese (made from milk of the herders’ flocks) to make a delicious, simple dish that kept them warm on cold evenings.
 
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