Cacio E Pepe translates into cheese and pepper, my two girls’ favorite pasta on earth. It’s like fancy mac-n-cheese. The pure simplicity of this recipe makes it almost sinful to change, so I didn’t change much. I added red pepper flakes instead of the traditional black pepper and used vegan cheeses. I liked the addition of the roasted tomatoes a lot. They are like little cherry bombs that explode in your mouth!
The kicker for me was the fennel pollen. I have recently discovered this culinary rock star and plan to use it wisely since it is a little expensive, but the good news is that it goes a long way.
The key to this simple pasta is using just enough pasta water to cook the pasta noodles. Too much water and you will lose all of your starch; not enough water and you will have to add a little hot water to make the sauce.
When the pasta is al dente, you will drain and save the pasta water, ensuring you have about 2 1/2 cups. This water is what we will use to make the sauce. Add a little butter to the pan, add your pepper flakes, and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Then add the pasta water to the butter/pepper mix and the pasta and cheese. Stir until the cheese, add pasta to the pan, and Boom! Dinner is served!
I used bucatini because I love its thickness, but you can use any pasta you want.Print
This super simple pasta gets a little zing with some fennel pollen! If you’ve never had it you will love it. Be warned it’s kind of expensive, but a little goes a long way!
- 14 oz. pasta such as bucatini or spaghetti (*see note)
- 10 oz. pack sangria tomatoes (or, any 10 oz pack of cherry/grape tomatoes)
- 3 Tbsp. unsalted vegan butter, cubed, divided
- 1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
- ¾ cup finely grated vegan Parmesan
- ⅓ cup vegan Romano
- Fennel Pollen (fennel seeds, anise seeds, or dill seeds work, too)
- Pre-heat oven to 425° F and prep a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Lightly spray tomatoes with avocado oil or other spray oil and dust with fennel pollen and black pepper.
- Roast tomatoes for 20-25 minutes, or until tomatoes are soft and fragrant.
- Meanwhile, while tomatoes are roasting, boil 5 1/2 cups of salted water (about 1 1/2 tsp of salt) for your pasta.
- Add pasta and stir occasionally. Cook until al dente, about 7-8 minutes.
- Remove from heat and drain pasta, reserving 2 1/2 cups of water. Set pasta aside. (**See note)
- In the same pan, over medium heat, add butter and red pepper flakes. Saute for 1-2 minutes until foaming and pepper flakes are fragrant. (Be warned the pepper can fill the air and your nose!)
- Add pasta water and stir. Simmer until sauce has reduced somewhat, about 5 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low and add pasta and cheeses. Stir to combine and add hot water if the sauce becomes too thick. Cook until the pasta has heated through.
- Plate the pasta and top with roasted tomatoes.
- Add additional cheese, pepper, and fennel pollen, to garnish and to taste.
- Serve warm.
- *If using gluten free pasta cook 3/4 of the way or it will fall apart. I use about 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt to my water. Rinse pasta well when done cooking.
- **If you do not have 2 1/2 cups of reserved water after cooking pasta just add hot tap water.