Cacio e Pepe (or cheese and pepper)

The Hunka hunka and I were in Minnesota a few years back and we visited our first Sam’s Club.   It was like the Costco we were used to only different.  They were selling a dry pasta that totally reminded me of Italy and I’ve been searching for it ever since.  We’ve tried visiting Sam’s Clubs in Washington, but no luck.

Basically, I’m looking for a pasta heavily flavored with cracked black pepper.  Once you cook it, you can toss it with so many different things.  In Italy, we had pasta tossed with olive oil, black pepper and Parmesan.  It was so simple and so good.  It had the fabulous sounding name of Cacio e Pepe.  The Hunka finds it a little too simplistic on a regular basis, so I add a few embellishments to it.  I think I could eat it the Italian way every week.

I love this with grated lemon and shrimp.  There’s something about black pepper and lemon that totally work together.  If you toss this with crispy fried bacon and a couple of raw eggs, you end up with an incredible emulsion similar to pasta carbonara.  Pasta primavera becomes magical when you toss the fresh veggies with black pepper and Parmesan and olive oil.

So, basically I’m being a lazy butt.  I don’t want to add the black pepper, I want it firmly embedded in my pasta so the flavor is totally intense.

Kosher salt

8 oz. pasta (I use linguine or spaghetti)

3 Tbsp. butter, cubed, divided

1 teaspoon. freshly cracked black pepper

3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan

1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino

Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a 5-qt. pot. Season with salt; add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup pasta cooking water.

Meanwhile, melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add pepper and cook, swirling pan, until toasted, about 1 minute.

Add 1/2 cup reserved pasta water to skillet and bring to a simmer. Add pasta and remaining butter. Reduce heat to low and add Parmesan, stirring and tossing with tongs until melted. Remove pan from heat; add Pecorino, stirring and tossing until cheese melts, sauce coats the pasta, and pasta is al dente. (Add more pasta water if sauce seems dry.) Transfer pasta to warm bowls and serve.

* From the Recipe Box:

Thanks Sam’s Club in Fargo, ND

Add:  lemon zest, shrimp, crispy bacon, raw eggs, fresh veggies, etc.

and remember what Betty White said:  Why do people say “Grow some balls?”  Balls are weak and sensitive.  If you really wanna get tough, grow a vagina!  Those things can really take a pounding!  Big kiss, Lynn

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