Date night doesn't always have to mean booking a table at a busy restaurant—sometimes it's even better to make a great meal at home. If you're trying to avoid the hordes crowding your favorite local Italian spot on Valentine's Day, consider whipping up some Cacio e Pepe ("cheese and pepper"), a classic Roman pasta dish that combines cheese, butter and carbs in one glorious package.
We consulted Adam Hill, executive chef at Manzo within Eataly NYC Flatiron, for an easy-to-make recipe based on the truly excellent version served at his Manhattan eatery.
“Cacio e Pepe is a traditional pasta from Rome that is easy to make at home, even for beginner cooks," he says. "Simple and delicious, this staple dish only requires a handful of high-quality ingredients. It's a perfect dinner for Valentine's Day because it doesn't need a lot of time to prepare—giving you more time with each other outside of the kitchen.”
Here's how to make it:
8 ounces dry Afeltra Spaghetti di Gragnano (about 4 ounces per person)
3 quarts water
5 tablespoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 cup Pecorino Romano DOP, freshly grated
1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano DOP, freshly grated
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the kosher salt. Once the water is boiling, add the spaghetti.
- Meanwhile, grind the peppercorns very coarsely using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. In a large pan, toast half of the freshly ground black pepper for about 20 seconds on low heat until fragrant, being careful not to burn them. Immediately add the butter and turn off the heat.
- Check the doneness of the spaghetti by tasting it. It should still have “a bite” and not be fully cooked at this point. Remove 1 cup of pasta water in a small container and set aside.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the almost-done spaghetti from the water and add it directly to the to the pan with the black pepper and butter. Add the cup of reserved pasta water and turn the pan on low heat.
- Stir vigorously to combine. The spaghetti should still be a little bit wet. Continue stirring for about 30 to 60 seconds in the pan, until the sauce starts to thicken.
- Turn off the heat and add the two cheeses and the remaining black pepper. Stir to combine until a thick sauce starts to form and all of the spaghetti is well coated in the sauce. If it is too dry, add some more of the pasta water and continue stirring.
- Serve spaghetti in warm bowls and top with more grated Parmigiano Reggiano DOP, Pecorino Romano DOP, and fresh black pepper.