Pepper. Cheese. Pasta. What’s the catch? Cacio e pepe inspired by Catch Me If You Can.
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Catch Me If You Can is the musical of the film of the autobiography of the con-artist and FBI consultant, Frank Abagnale Jr that ran, briefly, on Broadway in 2011 (it didn’t cacio on…). This is our second recipe based on this show, following on from Butter Outta Cream (and marbles). It is unfortunate that there isn’t a song entitled Catch Me If You Can in the show itself as I feel sure that it would detail Frank’s love of classic Italian pasta dishes such as cacio e pepe.
What do you mean you’ve never heard of it? Cacio e pepe means cheese and pepper, and essentially, it’s spaghetti with (guess what?!) cheese and black pepper. Yup. That’s it. Just three ingredients – well, four if you count the water for cooking the spaghetti in. Like much great Italian cookery, it is deceptively simple in terms of ingredients, but very high in flavour!
With this dish, it’s not so much what you put in as how you do it… and the water is key. In this recipe, forget everything you’ve ever been told about cooking pasta in a vast vat of water. Oh, and the cheese should be at room temperature.
Cook the spaghetti in salted boiling water in a wide pan – but only enough water to cover the spaghetti with an extra 250ml. Half way into the cooking time (whatever the packet says), remove 250ml of starchy water and set aside to cool. When the pasta has cooked, drain it and quickly rinse out the pan in cold water to cool it a little. Add the grated cheese and pepper to the pan and enough of the saved water to make a paste about as thick as a bechamel (you won’t need all of it). Add the spaghetti and stir vigorously. At first the cheese will clump horridly but, keep at it and, eventually, the heat from the spaghetti will help the warm starchy water and cheese emulsify to a sauce that coats the spaghetti. You could also add a little cream or butter to help bring the sauce together.
Serve immediately with a little more grated cheese and, on a full stomach, you can go off and convince people you’re Leonardo DiCaprio.