All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013
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Yesterday was national cheese day. Did you know that? My boyfriend, Miles, declared that to be true yesterday and, upon investigation, I found him to be correct. So – time for a cheese-based recipe!!! Behold! Cacio e Pepe!
Cacio e Pepe just means cheese & pepper. And that is literally all you are supposed to add to a traditional spaghetti cacio e pepe. I tend to find alfredos and such FAR to rich for my tastes & I very seldom make cream-heavy sauces. This dish, however, uses no heavy cream. No additional dairy beyond the finest pecorino you can find. The ingredients are:
How can you beat that for simplicity? You can’t. And if you can find a pepper pecorino like this one:
…well, now you are down to TWO ingredients.
Still, I thought I wanted to update this dish a bit & still cut into the calorie count involved. My thought was to do it using only zucchini noodles like these:
The problem with that idea, though, is that zucchini noodles do not stand up to cooking beyond a quick blanching or they get soggy. They require a hot sauce on them to soften them – if you are using them to mock spaghetti, as I intended to do here. I used them once before in my
But I ran into the same issue there as with my cacio e pepe endeavor – that my sauce was not hot. Plain, grated pecorino requires the heat of the freshly cooked pasta (and a bit of the hot pasta water) to melt the cheese & create the luscious creaminess this dish is famous for. So – I just used equal parts whole wheat spaghetti & zucchini noodles to cut down on the carb impact. You can leave the zucchini out entirely to no ill effect. Either way – this is one of the easiest, yummiest & most elegant pastas I have ever eaten. Even a total kitchen novice can pull this one off so no excuses!
Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe with NO CARB Zucchini Noodles
1 LB dry spaghetti
5 large zucchinis (optional)
8 oz (or more) HIGH QUALITY pecorino
Fresh ground pepper – and lots of it!
Extra pecorino or Parmesan for garnish (optional)
Using a grating tool like this:
or with a mandolin or spiralizer – create the noodles from the zucchini. No need to use the ends or seeded centers. Drain in a colander with a bit of salt mixed in.
Grate the pecorino.
Cook the pasta according to directions. Add the zucchini in the last minute. Put a large mixing bowl over the pasta pot in the last thirty seconds or so to warm it. Do not BURN yourself!
Reserve a little hot pasta water & then drain the pasta & zucchini. Add to the warmed bowl & top with the cheese. Stir it all around until the cheese is completely melted & incorporated. You might need to add a bit of the hot pasta water – maybe not.
Serve with a shite-load of freshly ground pepper. Be impressed with yourself.