This is not Cacio e Pepe


Online you can find a fair number of recipes for something called Cacio e Pepe, this is not about that dish.  By the way, the name for that dish means “Cheese and Pepper,” but a lot of the recipes you might find are a serious departure from that simple 4 ingredient dish:  pasta, pepper, cheese, and butter.  Peggy and I have been doing this for most of our married life — long before we knew that there was an Italian name for the dish.  And, to be honest, with a lot less ground black pepper than the Italians might approve.  Still, true Cacio e Pepe is sublime in it’s simplicity and flavor.

cacio-e-pepe-6x4

Our challenge today is quite different.  In a way this dish has more in common with Quiche than with cacio e pepe even though the ingredients haven’t changed a bit.  What we are after here is a bit of a crusty exterior.  A bit of bite. That wonderful flavor of browning!

cacio-e-pepe-pie-6

A quiche is an egg custard, usually with copious amounts of cheese, and some sort of filling (vegetable or protein) laying on a bed of pastry dough and the entirety baked. Well, our cheese pie is simply the same kind of egg custard, but instead of filling it with cheese and miscellaneous we fill it with cheese and pasta — then the pasta serves in place of the pastry dough and the whole thing sets up in a lovely way that allows the outer edges to brown and take on that lovely flavor of browning otherwise known as the Maillard reaction.

maillard reaction

Please note that it’s the “my-ard” reaction and not the mallard reaction.  We’re talking about flavors, not about ducks!

So, let’s get on with the program…

The process is easy.  Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.

cacio-e-pepe-pie-2

what you get is a soupy custard base with noodles in it. Use any kind of noodles you want.  Buccatini, Radiatore, Spaghetti, Linguine, Angel Hair — your choice. Just shorten your pasta cooking time by a minute or two to keep it al dentecacio-e-pepe-pie-3

The whole mixing bowl full of ingredients gets placed in a lightly greased springform pan and tossed in the oven. cacio-e-pepe-pie-4

What you’re looking for is this end result:  crispy, browned edges and loads of flavor.cacio-e-pepe-pie-6

The finished “pie” cut and served.  You can alter this recipe to make it larger or smaller to suit the number of dining companions.  This is a simple, no fuss way of having a tasty, fun meal. cacio-e-pepe-pie-7

CACIO E PEPE PIE.

YIELD: 6 TO 8 PEOPLE
prep time: 20 MINS
cook time: 50 MINS
cooling time: 10 MINS
total time: 1 HR 10 MINS
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 pound pasta  — your choice but shorter, or smaller rather than LONG is preferred
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    (When I make it I leave out the garlic — it makes me sick but hey, if you like garlic, go for it!)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 ounces provolone cheese, freshly grated
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, freshly grated
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fº Spray a 9-inch spring form pan with nonstick spray. I also like to wrap the bottom edges in foil, just so nothing leaks out!
  2. Cook the bucatini according to the pasta directions, shaving 1 to 2 minutes off the cook time so the pasta is al dente. Drain the pasta and let it cool slightly. You can give it a quick spritz of olive oil so it doesn’t stick together, if necessary.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk with the parmigiana, eggs, garlic, pepper, salt, 1 cup of the provolone and half of the mozzarella. Stir until combined. Add the cooked pasta to the bowl and toss well, until all the pieces of pasta are covered with the mixture. Transfer the pasta and cheese mixture to the spring form pan. Sprinkle the remaining provolone and mozzarella on top.
  4. Bake the pie for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the cheese is golden and bubbly and the center is set. Remove the pie and let it cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Gently release the spring form pan (use a sharp knife to cut down through any pieces stuck to the sides). Slice the pie into 6 or 8 wedges and serve immediately with more cheese for sprinkling.

 

4 thoughts on “This is not Cacio e Pepe

    1. Before we ever heard of cacio e pepe we were making what we called “american spaghetti” which was all the same ingredients save much less black pepper. Funny how some combinations just belong together.

      Of course it’s easy to get upset when people say they are going to prepare something that has a classic name, but then they take shortcuts in the preparation, or think that by innovating on a “classic” that they are somehow improving it. But it’s a classic for a reason — as it was it was perfect and “improvement” isn’t any improvement at all.

      I never thought I would be writing about recipes either. But sometimes it just seems right. And sometimes there’s a story to be had as well. :-\

      >

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