Cacio E Pepe translates into cheese and pepper, and it is my two girls’ favorite pasta on earth. It is a 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 in place of the traditional black pepper and used vegan cheeses, of course. 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 for cooking 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 that 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 then add the pasta and cheese. Stir until the cheese, add pasta to the pan, and Boom! Dinner is served!
I used bucatini, but you can really use any type of pasta you want.
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)
- 3 Tbsp. unsalted vegan butter, cubed, divided
- 1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
- ¾ cup finely grated vegan Parmesan
- ⅓ cup vegan Romano
- 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.