Do not under any circumstances, if you want to retain what little of the sanity you have left (and in some cases there is VERY little), attempt to make the Milk Street (Cook’s Complicated, er, Illustrated) version of cacio é pepe. I can understand that you would be tempted because cacia é pepe is really a remarkable and delicious dish and until I saw this show, I thought it could only be made in a restaurant because it requires an enormous wheel of Pecorino-Romano cheese. (see pic swiped from the internet below). I’ve only had it in restaurants in Europe, (insert tooth-sucking noise) where they have these massive wheels of cheese in which they can swirl the cooked pasta until it becomes a creamy cheesy luscious mess that they cover with freshly ground pepper, then toss and serve.
Imagine my delight when the adorable chef on Milk Street told me I could make it at home without the 300 lb cheese (imported from Italy) wheel. Oh, it’s so easy she cooed. Just do this, and a dab of that… She crooned with her buttery voice…stir for a trice and voila!! Perfect cacio é pepe every time!!! She trilled as they (she and Christopher Kimball) twirled pasta onto their plates and, making appreciative guttural noises, pretty much slam dunked the whole plate pasta in front of me. Great! I thought. Gotta do that.
So I asked the Royal Indian Mounted Police, home for the holiday, to make cacia é pepe for a dinner party. We watched that segment of Milk Street three times before we attempted it. We followed it completely, not deviating in any way (I must admit that Officer Husoor was very suspicious) and what we ended up with was a gluey, grainy, separated mess as he had predicted. At that point, and it had been a stressful few hours, I left it to him to figure out. I’d have been happy with plain pasta (there were meatballs involved) but somehow and I have no idea how, he pulled if off.
A Christmas miracle.